How loud is a rock band? Or a symphony orchestra? The answer is anything up to 125dB(A) and 94dB(A) respectively. That may not mean much to you now, but it is important that you know it is enough to damage your hearing - thus putting your career in music at risk. So what else do you need to know? And how can you protect your hearing when noise is part of your product?
Hearing damage caused by noise is permanent, irreversible and can cause deafness.
The music and entertainment sectors are unique from other areas of work in that high noise levels and extremely loud special effects are often regarded as essential elements of an event. However, loud sounds, whatever their source, can damage your hearing. This kind of noise-induced hearing loss has distinguishing characteristic features that are detectable on an audiogram after a hearing test.
Noise is measured in decibels (dB) and there are two action levels — 80dB(A) and 85dB(A). Suitable hearing protection must be made available by an employer for workers when there’s a daily or weekly exposure above 80dB(A), or a peak sound pressure of 135dB(C). Suitable hearing protection must be used when the daily or weekly exposure exceeds 85dB(A), or a peak sound pressure of 137dB(C). Exposure Limit Values, which must not be exceeded, are a daily or weekly level of 87dB(A) or a peak sound pressure of 140dB(C).
Those decibel levels are set out in The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (CNWR), which covers noise issues at work. Local authority enforcement officers are responsible for ensuring that all premises comply with the CNWR, and have powers to serve a Health & Safety Improvement Notice if an employer’s premises are found to be in breach of the regulations.
However, there is no requirement for self-employed and freelancer musicians to have their own health surveillance. That said, we strongly advise all such musicians have their own hearing health surveillance, especially if they think their exposure levels regularly exceed 85dB(A), they regularly have to wear hearing protection or they have other concerns about their hearing.
The Musicians’ Hearing Health Scheme
Hearing health surveillance is vital - but it can also be expensive. That’s why the MU developed a scheme that gives musicians access to specialist hearing assessment and bespoke hearing protection, in partnership with Help Musicians UK and Musicians Hearing Services.
The Musicians' Hearing Health Scheme offers free audiological assessment and ear check up from a specialist in musicians' hearing (worth up to £145), one set of free custom made, specialist musicians' ear plugs (worth £170), an automatic call back for a subsidised hearing test costing £20 every two years (worth £90), expert advice on referral routes and next steps to manage any problems, including contact with your GP, and optional wax removal at a subsidised rate of £40. You will receive assessment and hearing protection worth almost over £300 in your first year of membership alone. Ongoing membership of the scheme costs a one-off payment of £30 for Musicians’ Union members.
To find out more about the scheme, upcoming clinics and more, visit .
The Health & Safety Executive, the government body that sets out guidelines and provides advice for safety at work, also has specific information and advice for musicians. Find it at .