Musicians: use earplugs

As a musician you’re often right at the centre of the noise. That’s bad for your ears. What’s more, Remy Wenmaekers from the Eindhoven University of Technology discovered that your own instrument emits at least as much sound as those of your fellow musicians in the orchestra. Trumpet players, for example, are exposed to 95 to 100 decibels coming from their own instrument. By comparison, a factory worker has to wear protection for anything above 85 decibels. Wenmaekers used a calculation model to study the sound levels of instruments.

Researcher Remy Wenmaekers placed ‘puppet orchestras’ in five halls and subjected them to sound. This allowed him to measure how much sound musicians block with their bodies.

He did this with (existing) recordings of individual instruments. In the end, he figured out which devices would best protect musicians’ ears. Putting acoustic screens between musicians isn’t very effective because your own instrument produces so much sound. So what does help? Earplugs. Unfortunately, musicians don’t like using them, as Wenmaekers, himself a pianist in a jazz combo, knows. ‘It interferes with your playing.’

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