Hearing loss and tinnitus in rock musicians: A Norwegian survey
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionNoise & Health 2015, 17(79):411-421 10.4103/1463-1741.169708
Our focus in this study was to assess hearing thresholds and the prevalence and characteristics of tinnitus in a large group of rock musicians based in Norway. A further objective was to assess related factors such as exposure, instrument category, and the preventive effect of hearing protection. The study was a cross-sectional survey of rock musicians selected at random from a defined cohort of musicians. A random control group was included for comparison. We recruited 111 active musicians from the Oslo region, and a control group of 40 nonmusicians from the student population at the University of TromsØ. The subjects were investigated using clinical examination, pure tone audiometry, tympanometry, and a questionnaire. We observed a hearing loss in 37.8% of the rock musicians. Significantly poorer hearing thresholds were seen at most pure-tone frequencies in musicians than controls, with the most pronounced threshold shift at 6 kHz. The use of hearing protection, in particular custom-fitted earplugs, has a preventive effect but a minority of rock musicians apply them consistently. The degree of musical performance exposure was inversely related to the degree of hearing loss in our sample. Bass and guitar players had higher hearing thresholds than vocalists. We observed a 20% prevalence of chronic tinnitus but none of the affected musicians had severe tinnitus symptomatology. There was no statistical association between permanent tinnitus and hearing loss in our sample. We observed an increased prevalence of hearing loss and tinnitus in our sample of Norwegian rock musicians but the causal relationship between musical exposure and hearing loss or tinnitus is ambiguous. We recommend the use of hearing protection in rock musicians.