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Tinnitus and other hearing disorders run high among professional musicians

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Professional musicians face a 57% more likely risk of noise induced deafness

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Hearing disorders have been associated with occupational exposure to music. Musicians may benefit from non-amplified and low-intensity music, but may also have high risks of music-induced hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss can be caused by sudden very loud noise, such as an explosion or gunfire, but it may also develop gradually as a result of repeated exposure to loud noise,, suggest researchers of this new study out of Germany.

According to the study’s background over the past 50 years medical problems in professional musicians have been studied, with some emphasis on hearing. Notably, there have been several attempts to evaluate the risk of hearing loss due to exposure to music primarily in classical and rock/pop musicians.

In this study researches compared the rate of hearing loss and its subentities in professional musicians compared to the general population.

Researchers used data from three German statutory health insurance providers covering the years 2004–2008 with about 7 million insurants between 19 and 65 years of age. Among the insurants 2,227 professional musicians were identified.

During the four year study period the researchers found 283,697 cases of hearing loss with 238 being professional musicians and more likely to reside in cities.

After adjusting for this and other influential factors such as population density and sex, professional musicians were still more than likely to have noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) in comparison to the general public. Professional musicians were nearly four times as likely to have some level of hearing loss and 57% more likely to have tinnitus.

The incidence of hearing loss was slightly higher for men (2990 vs 2678 per 100 000 person-years), but was not associated with population density. Incidence rates increased with age. Up to the age of 35 years hearing loss was higher in women but above age 35 the incident rate was higher in men.

In their conclusion the researchers write “Professional musicians have a high risk of contracting hearing disorders. Use of already available prevention measures should reduce the incidence of HL in professional musicians.”

“Our data suggest that in professional musicians the risks of music induced hearing loss outweigh the potential benefits for hearing ability, as reported by [other researchers],” write the authors.

“Given the number of professional musicians and the severity of the outcome, leading to occupational disability and severe loss of quality of life, hearing loss in [this group] is of high public health importance,” they add. ‘Our data provide evidence of the need for prevention measures.’

The researches note to the best of their knowledge this is the largest study comparing the risk of hearing loss among professional musicians with that in the general population.

This study is in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine

Citation

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