The sense of hearing is arguably a professional musician's greatest tool, but a new study shows that they may face a higher risk of losing this sense than the general public.
The Occupational & Environmental Medicine study included data from 3 million people between ages 19 and 66 in Germany; of those people, 2,227 were professional musicians. Over the four-year study period, from 2004 to 2008, 283,697 people were newly diagnosed with hearing loss, including 238 professional musicians.
Professional musicians had a nearly four times higher risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss, and a 57 percent higher risk of developing tinnitus as a result of their job, compared with non-professional musicians.
The researchers from Germany were unable to differentiate between different kinds of musicians -- such as those who played electronic instruments, versus acoustic -- but they did note that measures such as in-ear sound protection could serve as hearing protection for both kinds of musicians.
While noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by a one-time event -- like an explosion -- it can also occur slowly over time, if someone is constantly exposed to loud sounds, the researchers noted.
Hearing loss is not just an occupational hazard for professional musicians -- according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009, there were more than 21,000 cases of hearing loss. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration notes that ways to tell if your workplace is too loud is if you hear humming or ringing noises after you leave work, you have to shout in order for a coworker who is an arm's length away to hear you, and you actually experience temporary hearing loss when you leave work.
Check out this cool tool from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help you determine how long you'd have to hear a loud sound before it starts doing some damage.