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Study is music to orchestras' ears

March 20, 2005|Louise Roug

In the long-standing debate about classical musicians and job-related hearing loss, the latest to weigh in are researchers from the University of Toronto.

Their findings indicate that orchestra musicians may not have to worry too much about those brass instruments after all.

To assist the Toronto study, published in the February edition of the journal Applied Acoustics, musicians with the Canadian Opera Company wore small noise dosimeters during rehearsals, dress rehearsals and regular performances. After testing sound levels in the orchestra pit, researchers found that those levels fell below the acceptable daily decibel amount recommended by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, says Willy Wong, one of the authors of the study.

Speaking by phone the other day in his role as an assistant professor at the university's Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, Wong cautioned that the study was specific to the performance space and the music played.

"It has to do with acoustic enclosures," he said. "There's an upcoming Wagner cycle -- which is some of the loudest music that's ever been played -- and that will contribute" to the researchers' continuing study.

Speaking as an amateur pianist married to a professional violinist, Wong added that since musicians depend on their hearing, players should in any case take precautions. He recommended hearing tests and earplugs.

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