Hearing loss among classical orchestra musicians

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Aalto-yliopiston teknillinen korkeakoulu | Doctoral thesis (article-based)
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Report / Helsinki University of Technology, Department of Signal Processing and Acoustics, 16
Noise is usually defined either unwanted sound or sound that is harmful to the hearing. Earlier studies have shown that musicians are exposed to sound levels that can be harmful to hearing, and thus music can be considered as noise. Studies have also shown that musicians have hearing problems due to prolonged music exposure. This is also the case among classical musicians. According to the new noise directive, hearing conservation programs directed to entertainment sector are needed. However the needs and attitudes of the classical music players are not understood in many perspectives. In this study, the total annual noise exposure including personal rehearsals has been measured and evaluated for the first time. The problems experienced with hearing protective devices, hearing symptoms (self-evaluated hearing loss, tinnitus, hyperacusis and diplacusis), and stress and their interaction were identified and quantified in two countries among large symphony orchestras. The results showed that the use of a hearing protective device was poor, especially in personal rehearsals. The musicians with hearing loss used more often a hearing protective device. All hearing symptoms were related to stress and reduced work satisfaction. Hearing loss was measured with audiometer among a volunteer group. The hearing loss correlated with music exposure but was smaller than predicted by the standard ISO 1999-1990. Room acoustics was improved in a project involving small classrooms for music students. The classrooms correspond to personal rehearsal facilities for musicians. The improvement in room acoustics was minor, but had a beneficial effect on job satisfaction. The thesis provides means to implement personal protection, technical means and training in hearing conservation programs for classical music players.
Supervising professor
Karjalainen, Matti, Prof.
Thesis advisor
Toppila, Esko, Assoc. Prof.
music, hearing loss, hearing symptoms, noise exposure, hearing conservation program, hearing protectors
Other note
  • [Publication 1]: Heli M. Laitinen, Esko M. Toppila, Pekka S. Olkinuora, and Kaarina Kuisma. 2003. Sound exposure among the Finnish National Opera personnel. Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, volume 18, number 3, pages 177-182. © 2003 by authors and © 2003 Taylor & Francis. By permission.
  • [Publication 2]: Heli Koskinen. 2010. Hearing loss among classical orchestra musicians. Espoo, Finland: Aalto University School of Science and Technology. 12 pages. Helsinki University of Technology, Department of Signal Processing and Acoustics, Report 17. ISBN 978-952-60-3084-5. ISSN 1797-4267. Submitted for publication in 2009.
  • [Publication 3]: H. Laitinen. 2005. Factors affecting the use of hearing protectors among classical music players. Noise and Health, volume 7, number 26, pages 21-29. © 2005 nRn Publications. By permission.
  • [Publication 4]: Esko Toppila, Heli Laitinen, Pekka Olkinuora, Kaarina Kuisma, and Katja Perälä. 2001. Development of hearing conservation program for Finnish National Opera. In: Proceedings of the 2001 International Congress and Exhibition on Noise Control Engineering (INTER-NOISE 2001). The Hague, The Netherlands. 27-30 August 2001. Paper 145. 6 pages. © 2001 International Institute of Noise Control Engineering (I-INCE). By permission.
  • [Publication 5]: Heli Laitinen and Torben Poulsen. 2008. Questionnaire investigation of musicians' use of hearing protectors, self reported hearing disorders, and their experience of their working environment. International Journal of Audiology, volume 47, number 4, pages 160-168. © 2008 Informa Healthcare. By permission.
  • [Publication 6]: Heli Koskinen, Esko Toppila, and Pekka Olkinuora. 2010. Facilities for music education and their acoustical design. International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, volume 16, number 1, pages 93-104. © 2010 Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute (CIOP–PIB). By permission.