Hearing management

Updated 13 December 2017

Pop stars and musicians more likely to go deaf

Professional musicians have a much higher than average risk of hearing problems.

Professional musicians are up to four times more likely to suffer deafness than the general public, according to research published in the online edition of Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

They are also 57% more likely to develop tinnitus – incessant ringing in the ears.

Infographic: How noise affects your health

Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by a sudden very loud sound, such as a gunshot, but it may also develop gradually from repeated exposure to loud noise.

The study drew on health insurance data from three million German citizens, including 2227 musicians, between 2004 and 2008. Just under 284 000 cases of hearing loss were reported during this time.

The researchers' definition of "professional musician" included rock/pop and classical instrumental musicians, as well as singers, conductors and composers.

Risk from long-term loud music exposure outweighs benefit

Long-term exposure to industrial noise has been clearly linked to hearing damage, including the inability to hear the full range of sound. But previous research suggested that long-term exposure to music has the opposite effect, and increases hearing sensitivity.

The authors of the German musician study say that, although musicians' hearing may benefit from non-amplified and low-intensity music, their evidence indicates that in this group the risks of music-induced hearing loss outweigh the potential benefits to hearing ability.

Read:Decibel damage:how much can your ears really handle?

Musicians need ear-plugs

The researchers stress that hearing loss among professional musicians is of high public health importance, given the significant number of people who do this work and the consequent occupational disability and severe loss of quality of life.

They strongly recommended that the international professional music community educate their members as to the risks, and encourage hearing protection practices.

These might include the use of sound-dampening in-ear devices, for musicians playing in either rock bands or orchestras, and whenever sound amplifiers are employed.

Sound shields should also be installed between different sections of an orchestra, to lower the combined decibel level on musicians' ears.

Read more

Noise is a pollutant: turn it down!
Aircraft noise might damage the heart

Schink, T. et al. 2014. Incidence and relative risk of hearing disorders in professional musicians. Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Image of conductor's hands: Shutterstock


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

Minette Lister graduated with a Bachelor of Communication Pathology (Audiology) from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville in 2015. Thereafter, she completed her compulsory year of community service at Phoenix Assessment and Therapy Centre in Durban. In 2017, Minette started working for Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. She is passionate about working with children and adults to diagnose and manage hearing loss using state of the art technology. Minette offers hearing screening programmes for newborn and high-risk babies, as well as school-aged children, in order to decrease the incidence of late or unidentified hearing loss.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules