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Close to 6 million U.S. teens have some form of hearing loss, which represents an increase of approximately 33 % over the past 2 decades. In addition to the use of high-volume portable music players and mobile phones, experts say that teens’ involvement in marching band is yet another possible cause of damage to hearing. As nearly every city high school and university has a marching band, band membership is a very common activity among teens.

Hazardous decibel levels for teenagers.Volume, or noise level, is measured in decibels (dB). Children and adults can suffer hearing loss from exposure to sounds over 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. What can be even more damaging than playing those instruments on the field is playing indoors for rehearsals. Sometimes teens don’t want to reduce the volume of their instruments just because they are inside.

Prevention and protection strategies. An effective solution for reducing sound levels is the use of musicians earplugs. Musicians earplugs are custom-designed to fit an individual’s ear perfectly. Musicians earplugs can be expensive, which may be a problem for parents. 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. Band leaders and participants also need to be aware of how important it is to lower the volume of their instruments when practicing indoors. To best protect the hearing of marching band members, a joint effort between students, band leaders, and parents is recommended.