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BBC Proms prompts hearing advice for musicians

17 July 2015

Following the success of the BBC Proms in July, BOHS, The Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection is offering advice to orchestral musicians on how to prevent Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).


The advice is based on a research paper published in The Annals of Occupational Hygiene involving the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in Australia which has implemented a Hearing Conservation Program.

The dangers of hearing loss for rock musicians are well known, but orchestral musicians and conductors face similar risks. Studies had shown professional musicians are nearly at four times the risk of NIHL as the general population and 57 per cent more likely to develop tinnitus – an incessant ringing in their ears – as a result of the job.

This presents a health and safety challenge peculiar to orchestral musicians and their employers. But orchestras can prevent NIHL by:

  • Having a strategy, which includes noise monitoring, regular data reviews and providing earplugs designed for musicians and acoustic screens
  • Using rostering and seat rotation where possible and reviewing set up/layout
  • Communicating with their employees: having a noise committee, evaluating artistic impact of controls by involving musicians, developing an education package and maintaining an up-to-date hearing evaluation package.

Dr Stephen Dance, a spokesman for the Institute of Acoustics and Reader in Acoustics at London South Bank University, backs the BOHS advice. "At the university we work with the Royal Academy of Music on this issue,” he said. "We also had the help of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. We have found that music exposure can be addressed through education, appropriate information, musical programme management, health surveillance and mitigation measures.

The resounding message is clear - with the right control measures in place, and the backing of key organisations, NIHL can be prevented."