Some six million teenagers in the United States suffer some form of loss of hearing, and this number has risen considerably over the past 20 years. While authorities claim that this hearing loss is in part caused by sustained exposure to high volumes of music from phones and MP3 players, participation in marching band is another contributing cause. As nearly every city high school and university has a marching band, participation is a quite common activity among teens.
Dangerous sound levels for teenagers.Noise levels are measured in decibels, also written as dB. Children and adults can suffer hearing loss from exposure to sounds over 85 dB. Marching band includes a variety of instruments, some of which easily cross over that threshold during rehearsals and performances. An experiment at Duke University showed that a drumline rehearsal exposed students to decibel levels of 99 over a 30-minute period. However, playing those instruments indoors for rehearsals can be even more harmful to teens’ hearing. Sometimes teens don’t want to reduce the volume of their instruments just because they are inside.
Prevention and protection strategies. Musicians earplugs are effective at reducing the sound levels that reach the inner ear. Musicians earplugs are custom-designed to fit an individual’s ear perfectly. However, parents often find them to be expensive. Another effective strategy for protecting young people’s hearing is to reduce the length of time they are exposed to potentially harmful sound levels by breaking up the rehearsals into shorter sessions. Increased awareness among teens and band leaders of the importance of reducing instrument sound levels when playing indoors is also key. To best protect the hearing of marching band members, a joint effort between students, band leaders, and parents is recommended.