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Hearing Health for Teachers and Students

Music can easily reach volumes that are loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage. If you teach or lead musical activities, make protecting the hearing health of yourself and others a central part of what you do.

Last updated: 30 March 2022

Managing cumulative sound exposure

A hazard for teachers is cumulative sound exposure, which is more likely to cause damage than exposure for short periods. You can use a free online tool to calculate the level of sound you are exposed to over the course of a day. Find a noise exposure calculator on the Health and Safety Executive's website.

Where a risk is identified, there may be ways to mitigate this in addition to using earplugs, for example by:

  • Dampening the acoustic of your teaching space
  • Structuring lessons and rehearsals to limit excess sound
  • Not scheduling the loudest lessons back-to-back
  • Minimising playing along with students.

Protecting students

Protecting the hearing of your students is just as important as protecting your own. Where appropriate, this may include discussing the issue of hearing health with them so that the potential for damage is understood. Other measures worth considering include:

  • Asking students to point their instruments away from you and each other
  • Using acoustic screens for the most powerful instruments.

If you teach loud ensembles like drumming groups, consider purchasing a set of hearing protection devices for your students. Budget-friendly filter-based earplugs are available online, as well as over-ear protectors if in-ear versions cannot be used.

The Musicians’ Hearing Health Scheme

The MU offers its members a reduced rate to access an innovative and effective hearing health scheme. The Musicians’ Hearing Health Scheme is administered by Help Musicians UK and costs just £30 for MU members. It includes a hearing check to identify any existing hearing damage, and a pair of bespoke moulded musicians’ earplugs that would normally cost over £200.

Applicants must be 18 or over and evidence that they have either earned the majority of their income from one or more of a list of eligible musical professions, or have done so for more than 5 years throughout their career. Read the full eligibility criteria list.

Read more information about the Musicians’ Hearing Health Scheme and how to sign up.

Sound Advice in teaching context

The MU, in consultation with the Association of British Orchestras and other sector bodies, helped draft the Health and Safety Executive’s 'Sound Advice' booklet in 2008. The booklet can be downloaded free online from the Health and Safety Executive’s website. This publication addresses both performing and teaching contexts and is helpful as an overview of the hazards that can affect musicians’ hearing.

Of particular relevance to music educators is a chart of the typical and peak decibel levels created by each instrument. Charts are also available for instruments that are commonly found in classroom music lessons and in marching bands.

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