Musicians can protect their hearing by wearing earplugs, sitting further apart and chewing gum, according to a BBC report.
Written by the BBC’s safety manager, the health and safety report lists the risks involved in playing for long periods and even years in the organisation’s five orchestras.
It is a well-known fact that string players get the brunt of the noise from the brass instruments behind that produce large decibels and after years of playing, this can cause tinnitus and hard of hearing in later life.
But it is the brass players who can also damage their hearing, the report finds. It suggests that trombonists and other brass players are exposed to around 92 decibels, almost the same level given off by a chainsaw.
Meanwhile, during a three-hour rehearsal or performance, an oboist is exposed to the same amount of noise as spending an hour on the Underground.
To help with some of these hearing ailments, the report largely recommends wearing earplugs, although it claims that chewing gum can prevent a clenched jaw, which can lead to tinnitus, while it also recommends using a screen to partition sections of the orchestra away from other musicians during rehearsal.
The report, a response to EU rules about noise in the workplace, also provides advice on stress levels of musicians.
It reads: “The sound of your colleagues’ instruments may well contribute to increased stress levels … the adrenaline rush you thrive on in performance can turn under certain circumstances to unhealthy stress that is associated with raised blood pressure, compromised immunity and changes to metabolism.”
Principal cellist for the English String Orchestra, Peter Adams, criticised the report. He told the Telegraph: “The tendency of musicians to do a lot of drinking at the end of concerts is surely a greater risk to health.
“Certainly, if you are sat next to the brass section it can be very loud and people do take precautions but using chewing gum – I don’t think that would look very good from the audiences’ point of view, or on the BBC cameras during the Proms.”
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