Some six million teenagers nationwide suffer some type of loss of hearing, and this number has increased considerably over the last 20 years. Besides the use of high-volume portable music players and cell phones, experts say that teens’ participation in marching band is another possible reason for damage to hearing. As nearly every urban high school and university has a marching band, participation is a quite common activity among teens.
Hazardous sound levels for teens.Volume, or noise level, is measured in decibels (dB). Adults and children can suffer hearing loss from exposure to sounds over 85 dB. Some of the instruments in marching band can easily surpass the 85dB mark when the teens are practicing or performing. For example, Duke University students were exposed to decibel levels of 99 over a half hour during drumline practice. 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. Musicians earplugs can be expensive, which may be a problem for parents. 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.