Health Promotions in Schools of Music

2004 Conference | Sponsors | University of North Texas | Performing Arts Medical Association

Music Education Liaison

Hearing Health

Vocal Health
PreConference Report 1
Preconference Report 2
Postconference Report


Mental Health
Teacher Stresses


Chair: Patricia Sink, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Karendra DeVroop, Cape Henry Preparatory School
Douglas Owens, University of Southern Maine


I.            Music educators and students need to be informed of the possibility of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) as a result of participating in music activities.  Music educators and students are exposed to variable and intense sound levels that may place them at risk for NIHL during the progression of their careers and/or participation in music.  However, because federal regulations by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are designed to verify industrial workers' sound-exposure levels, minimal long-term descriptions of music educators/students' exposure to unacceptable sound levels exist.  Of course, OSHA standards apply to music educators and students.  However, examinations of music educators and students have resulted in minimal, if any, sound-exposure problems over an eight-hour period of measurement (i.e., as assessed by OSHA).  Yet, we know, because of the variable and intense sound-level exposures by music educators and students across their careers and participation, they frequently experience NIHL.  The International Standards Organization (ISO) applies the United States National Institute for Health and Safety (NIOSH) suggestions.  The U.S.-recognized federal regulatory agency (i.e., OSHA) has yet to accept and apply the NIOSH recommendations of no more than an 85 dB sound-level exposure during an eight-hour period with a 3 dB exchange rate.  Currently, the OSHA standard relative to unacceptable sound-exposure level is 90 dB with a 5 dB exchange rate.  We must pursue application of the NIOSH standards to protect music educators and students from NIHL. Additionally we must establish a process by which music consumers, performers, students and teachers may be educated or informed about the alarming differences between OSHA and NIOSH standards in terms of preventing NIHL.

II.            Based on research, hearing conservation programs need to be established in K-12 and higher education music programs, and a hearing conservation brochure should be developed for distribution.  Professional associations and organizations have developed hearing conservation programs.  Some examples of such programs include:  Crank It Down (National Hearing Conservation Association), Dangerous Decibels (Oregon Hearing Research Center), Hear for a Lifetime (American Tinnitus Association), Hearing Education for Rockers (H.E.A.R.), Hear US (National Campaign for Hearing Health), HIP Talk (House Ear Institute), Know Noise (Sight & Hearing Association, Operation BANG (Military Audiology Association), Stop That Noise (League for the Hard of Hearing), and Ear Wise (NIDCD).  Despite these hearing conservation programs, basic information about hearing losses among music educators and students remains absent from most school music curricula.  Some researchers maintain that hearing conservation practices are not in most schools because of the lack of music educators' awareness, lack of effective research dissemination, and lack of committed, tenacious and required applications of hearing conservation education in K-12 and university/college music curricula.  Perhaps a result of the HPSM Conference will be developing and providing a program entitled, Save the Children's Ears Campaign (Chesky, 09/08/04) in collaboration with the National Association of Music Educators (i.e., MENC).

III.            Training regarding protection of hearing should be integrated into elementary through college/university music teaching and learning programs.  Such a training program should emphasize hearing protection as a crucial part of music skills and knowledge, including presenting information about the physiology of the human hearing mechanism, and about the use of hearing protection.  For example, hearing protection training may help to minimize objections of music educators and students to wearing earplugs by differentiating between conventional and musicians' earplugs, and by providing instruction as to how to properly insert earplugs to result in flat frequency responses for maximal protection, and for realistic acquisition of music information during performance, practice and teaching session.

IV.            To protect the hearing of music educators and students, a hearing conservation program must be implemented.  Although the Hearing Panel is advocating the use of NIOSH standards (see I. above), OSHA has established regulations for a hearing conservation program and indicates that such a program should include:  (a) environmental noise measurements of all practice, rehearsal, and teaching spaces; (b) audiometric testing of the hearing acuity of all music educators and students on an annual basis, (c) introduction to and instruction in the use of hearing protectors designed for musicians, (d) education and training in hearing protection, and (e) documentation of the results of the hearing conservation program.

V.            The education and training portion of a hearing conservation program should include the following:

A. Accurate descriptions of sound-level exposures experienced during participation in music consuming, learning, performing, and teaching;

B. Results of audiometric tests categorized by type and level of music consuming, learning, performing, and teaching activities;

C. Information about the use, care, and fitting of a variety of hearing protection devices designed for persons participating in music activities;

D. Applications of planned acoustical engineering controls;

E. Explanation of the value of "downtime" from exposure to loud sounds (i.e., > 85 dBA) – ideally this time is 24-48 hours, but a minimum of 12 hours is essential to prevent NIHL, and to provide time for the human hearing mechanism to recover from exposure to loud sounds;

F. Information about the anatomy and physiology of hearing, and about what happens to the hearing mechanism during exposure to loud sounds; and

G. Description of what happens to the hearing mechanism after exposure to loud sounds, resulting in the acquisition of NIHL and tinnitus – thus, emphasizing the importance of hearing protection.

VI.            State MEA and national MENC Conferences should include sessions to inform music educators about the possibility of NIHL as a result of their occupations.  Additionally, editors and editorial boards of journals and periodicals of the music and music education professions need to be more accessible for researchers to educate music educators and students about the possibilities of hearing loss as a result of music participation, and about preventing hearing loss.  Currently, numerous researchers who submit prospective articles for publication to journals associated with our profession relative to NIHL and preventing hearing loss are informed by some editors (e.g., Journal of Research in Music Education) that this type of research is not published in the journal, and the prospective publication is not sent forward for review to the journal's editorial board for review.  This is definitely a problem relative to educating music educators and their students, and relative to disseminating essential research results in terms of the human hearing mechanism and the effect of music participation on hearing loss.