Close to six million American teenagers have some variety of hearing loss, which represents an increase of approximately a third over the past 2 decades. While experts claim that this hearing loss is in part caused by regular exposure to high volumes of music from portable players and phones, taking part in marching band is yet another contributing cause. As nearly every city high school and college has a marching band, band membership is a very common activity among teens.
Teenagers and loud sounds. Noise levels are measured in decibels, also written as dB. Sounds greater than 85 dB can lead to hearing loss in both adults and children. 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. What can be even more damaging than playing those instruments on the field is playing indoors for rehearsals. Unfortunately, many youths don’t reduce the volume of their instruments when playing inside.
Prevention and protection strategies. An effective solution for reducing sound levels is the use of musicians earplugs. These professional earplugs are designed to fit perfectly in the teen’s ears. 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. Band leaders and participants also need to be aware of how important it is to lower the volume of their instruments when practicing indoors. To best protect the hearing of marching band members, a joint effort between students, band leaders, and parents is recommended.