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Noise induced hearing loss in music therapists: a case study

Leah MacMahon BSc(Hons), MCIEH, Tech. IOSH1 and Dr Alan Page D.Prof, PGD (Acoustics and Noise Control); PGCHE, B.Sc (Hons); CMCIEH2  

1Environmental Health Team, Picton Barracks
2School of Science and Technology, Middlesex University

Correspondence: Environmental Health Team, Medical Branch, HQ 3 (UK) Div, Picton Barracks, Bulford SP4 9NY. Email: leah.macmahon785@mod.uk  

Abstract

There are many industries which are affected by a high incidence of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), particularly heavy manufacturing, oil and gas, and the music industry. There are other less recognised occupations, particularly in the leisure industry. This study explores the noise exposure of a music therapist who works with people with multiple or learning disabilities as well as mental health problems, and evaluates exposure to legislative standards.

A dBadge Lite Micro Noise Dosimeter CEL-350 and a Harmonie portable fourchannel system sound level meter enabling octave-band analysis of music sessions were employed for the monitoring. All individual and group therapy sessions were monitored for ten days, in order to gain a representative data set.

The findings of the study support the idea that music therapists are at risk of excessive occupational noise exposure. The study participant was exposed to sound levels that resulted in dose percentages exceeding standards recommended by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) (Govt. of Great Britain, 2005), with the lower action value levels being reached for the average daily noise exposure (LEPd), the average weekly exposure (LEPw) and peak sound pressure values.

Due to the numerous variables it is impossible to state with certainty the occupational noise exposure of music therapists and thereby any subsequent hearing disorders which may occur. However, evidence from the present study, scientific literature, and anecdotal evidence suggest that this occupational group may be at risk of NIHL and should be the subject of appropriate risk assessment for noise exposure and that employers should seek to lower exposure to noise so far as is reasonably practicable through a range of interventions. It is hoped that this study will raise awareness amongst music therapists and employers as to the risks that pertain to noise exposure. It is considered important that further study of the occupational group is considered.

Key words: Environmental health, music therapy, Noise Induced Hearing Loss(NIHL), occupational noise  

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