Background: The aim of this study was to assess sound exposure and the risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in orchestral musicians.
Materials and methods: Questionnaire inquiries and sound pressure level measurements were carried out in 63 musicians. Based on these data the risk assessment of the NIHL was performed according to ISO 1999:1990 (PN-ISO 1999:1990).
Results: The classical orchestral musicians are usually exposed to sound at equivalent continuous A-weighted sound pressure levels of 81-90 dB (10-90th percentile), for 20-48 h (10-90th percentile) per week. Occupational exposures to such sound levels over 40 years of employment cause the risk of hearing impairment (expressed as mean hearing threshold level for 2, 3 and 4 kHz equal or greater than 25 dB) in the range of 13-33% and 9-33% in females and males, respectively. The highest risk is related to playing clarinet (up to 33%), tube (up to 34%), trumpet (up to 37%), trombone (up to 40%), percussion section (up to 41%) and horn (up to 47%). About 46% of respondents noticed hearing impairment. Nearly every fifth musician complained of tinnitus while almost half (48%) of them--of hyperacusis. However, only 14% of musicians declared present or past usage of hearing protective devices (HPDs) while over twice of them (30%) intended to use HPDs in the future.