Music therapists at risk of long-term hearing problems

Publication Date: 20th January 2016

Subject: Health and safety

New research has shown that music therapists exposed to occupational noise on a daily basis can be at risk of developing long-term hearing problems.  

The research appeared in the latest issue of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health‘s Journal of Environmental Health Research titled ‘Noise induced hearing loss in music therapists: a case study’.

Its authors, Leah MacMahon, and Dr Alan Page, of the School of Science and Technology, University of Middlesex, hope the findings will raise awareness of the risks to music therapists, and encourage employers to implement control measures to protect them.

Many industries have been shown to pose a higher risk of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), including heavy manufacturing and the music industry.

However, there are other occupations that are at risk of NIHL and whilst many studies have looked at employees within the music industry, prior to this work there has been no evidence relating to the noise exposure of music therapists.

Leah MacMahon and Dr Page’s research paper explores the noise exposure of a music therapist, who works with clients with learning disabilities as well as mental health problems, and evaluated their exposure against legislative standards.

It was found that the music therapist was on occasion exposed to sound levels that exceeded the standards set by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005), with the lower action value levels being reached for the average daily noise exposure, the average weekly exposure and peak sound pressure values.

As music therapists are at risk of NIHL, the research recommends they should be the subject of appropriate risk assessment for noise exposure and employers, therefore, should seek to lower exposure to noise so far as is reasonably practicable through a range of interventions.

Such interventions could include the supply of purpose-built rooms in which the acoustic environment is part of the design; fitting sound absorbent materials to floors walls and ceilings; as well as using hearing protection especially during activities when sound levels are at their greatest.

Leah MacMahon said: “Occupational noise can be insidious and irreversible but it can also be completely preventable. This study highlighted just how complex assessing occupational noise exposure can be and the importance of involving both employees and employers in completing a comprehensive risk assessment. Improving awareness amongst the profession is one of the greatest challenges.”

Dr Page said: “This study highlights that there are emergent job roles in which the exposure to elevated sound levels has the potential to cause harm.  As such it is clear that noise levels within this field should be appropriately assessed and addressed.

“What this study also highlights is that the modern contract context in which workers may have multiple employers has the potential to pose an additional obstacle to appropriate assessment of noise exposure.”

ENDS 

Notes to editors  

For further information about the research paper or to contact the authors, please contact Steven Fifer: s.fifer@cieh.org; 020 7827 5922.  

To read the full paper, go to page 57 of the December edition of the JEHR: www.cieh.org/jehr/  

Methodology  

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 study involved measuring the occupational noise exposure of a single participant over a two-week period (10 working days).  

About the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH):      

The CIEH is the professional voice for environmental health representing over 10,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors. It ensures the highest standards of professional competence in its members, in the belief that through environmental health action people's health can be improved.      

Environmental health has an important and unique contribution to make to improving public health and reducing health inequalities.      

The CIEH campaigns to ensure that government policy addresses the needs of communities and business in achieving and maintaining improvements to health and health protection.       

The CIEH is a leading provider of regulated qualifications and operates in over 50 countries.      

For more information visit www.cieh.org and follow the CIEH on Twitter @The_CIEH.   

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