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.

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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


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Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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