The influence of music on hearing. A study in classical and rock/jazz musicians

Abstract: The aim of this thesis was to assess hearing and hearing disorders among classical and rock/jazz musicians. Pure tone audiometry was performed in 140 classical and 139 rock/jazz musicians. The rock/jazz musicians answered a questionnaire concerning hearing disorders (hearing loss, tinnitus, hyperacusis, distortion, diplacusis) and psycho-social exposure (demands, control, support, stress and energy).All results were compared to age appropriate reference materials.The results showed overall well-preserved hearing thresholds in both classical and rock/jazz musicians, considering the periodically high sound levels exposure. The female musicians were shown to have significantly better hearing thresholds in the high frequency area than the male musicians. Among classical musicians, the brass players displayed slightly worse hearing thresholds than the other musicians. Rock/jazz musicians showed slight worse hearing thresholds as compared to classical musicians. Hearing thresholds showed a notch configuration indicating the inclusion of high sound levels in both classical and rock/jazz musicians. When assessing hearing disorders (hearing loss, tinnitus, hyperacusis, distortion, diplacusis) a large number of rock/jazz musicians were shown to suffer from different hearing disorders (74%). Hearing loss, tinnitus and hyperacusis were the most common disorders and found to be significantly more frequent in comparison with different reference populations. A 16 years follow-up study was done in classical musicians to evaluate the risk of progressive hearing loss. Males showed a slightly more pronounced, although not significant, hearing reduction in the high frequency region and a higher threshold distribution within the 90th percentile than the females. No extended negative progress of the pure tone hearing threshold values was found in spite of the continued 16 years of musical noise exposure. Psychosocial exposure (demand, control and support) as measured in the 139 rock/jazz musicians showed no convincing evidence for associations between psychosocial factors at work and hearing disorders in general. The rock/jazz musicians reported low stress (negative valued) and high degree of energy (positive valued) and on the average, the rock/jazz musicians reported higher control, lower stress and higher energy than did a reference material of white-collar workers. Random sound level measurements during rock/jazz performances showed sound levels well exceeding recommended maximum levels.Musicians are dependent on a very well functioning auditory system. A sensorineural or cochlear hearing loss may be devastating, creating difficulties with sound recognition, localisation, and reduced auditory dynamic range and loudness recruitment. It may further imply difficulties with perception of pitch, loudness, duration and timbre. Tinnitus, hyperacusis, distortion and diplacusis are among musicians considered to be an even greater handicap than a moderate high tone loss. Thus it is vital that hearing disorders among musicians include tinnitus, hyperacusis, distortion and diplacusis.

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