Roughly 6 million teens in the United States suffer some form of loss of hearing, and this number has risen considerably over the past twenty years. While experts claim that this hearing loss is in part due to regular exposure to high volumes of music from portable players and phones, taking part in marching band is another contributing cause. Marching band is a popular activity for teens, as bands can be found in almost all large high schools and in virtually every university.
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 noises 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. 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. Musicians earplugs are custom-designed to fit an individual’s ear perfectly. However, parents often find them to be expensive. Shorter rehearsal sessions are another good approach to protecting teens hearing, because it breaks up the time for which they are exposed to potentially damaging decibel levels. 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.