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Roughly 6 million teens nationwide suffer some form of loss of hearing, and this number has increased considerably over the last 20 years. While experts claim that this hearing loss is in part caused by regular exposure to high volumes of music from portable players and phones, taking part in marching band is yet another possible cause. As almost every city high school and college has a marching band, band membership is a very common activity among teenagers.

Harmful sound levels for teens.Volume, or noise level, is measured in decibels (dB). Children and adults can suffer hearing loss from exposure to noises in excess of 85 dB. Some of the instruments in marching band can easily surpass the 85dB mark when the teens are practicing or performing. For example, Duke University students were exposed to decibel levels of 99 over a half hour during drumline practice. However, playing those instruments indoors for rehearsals can be even more harmful to teens’ hearing. Unfortunately, many youths don’t reduce the volume of their instruments when playing inside.

Prevention and protection strategies. Musicians earplugs are effective at reducing the sound levels that reach the inner ear. These professional earplugs are designed to fit perfectly in the teen’s ears. However, parents often find them to be expensive. Another effective strategy for protecting young people’s hearing is to reduce the length of time they are exposed to potentially harmful sound levels by breaking up the rehearsals into shorter sessions. Increased awareness among teens and band leaders of the importance of reducing instrument sound levels when playing indoors is also key. Parents, teens, and band leaders should work together to increase awareness and to implement strategies for protecting the hearing of marching band members.

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