Some six million teens nationwide suffer some type of loss of hearing, and this number has increased dramatically over the past twenty years. While experts say that this hearing loss is in part caused by sustained exposure to high volumes of music from portable players and phones, participation in marching band is yet another contributing cause. Marching band is a favorite activity for teens, as bands can be found in almost all large high schools and in virtually every university.

Young people and loud sounds. 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. For example, Duke University students were exposed to decibel levels of 99 over a half hour during drumline practice. 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.

Strategies for hearing protection and hearing loss prevention. Musicians earplugs are effective at reducing the sound levels that reach the inner ear. Musicians earplugs are custom-designed to fit an individual’s ear perfectly. 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.

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