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September 6, 2011

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BBC composes noise guide for musicians

With the Proms in full swing, the BBC has published a free musicians’ guide on noise, its effects, and how to deal with them.
The full-colour 48-page guide is written by BBC safety manager Ruth Hansford, in partnership with a number of organisations, including the Musicians’ Union, the Association of British Orchestras and the Royal Academy of Music.
Writing about the guide in a blog on the BBC website, Hansford said: “Musicians tend to do well in hearing tests, compared with the general population. But it’s the hearing problems you can’t easily measure – tinnitus, the loss of ability to pick out information in a noisy environment (the cocktail-party effect) – that are the most talked-about among musicians.
“Many in their forties and fifties wish they had not been so silly in their youth, showing off with stories of going to a gig and having a ringing in their ears for days after. But that generation tends to be less addicted to their iPods – a major emerging health risk for younger people.”
At the beginning of the guide, there are three clips of the third movement of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony. The first is as it should sound, the second simulates how it might sound if you are losing your hearing with age, and the third clip simulates what you might hear if you have noise-induced hearing loss. According to Radio 3 senior studio manager, Philip Burwell, who created the files, the sound of the triangle disappears altogether and the piece sounds wrong.
Hansford said she hopes the guide will help empower all those involved in music-making to act responsibly in regard to noise and hearing, for their colleagues and themselves.
The first part to the guide is available to download at
‘Part II – a Toolkit for Managers’ is currently available as a consultation draft at To comment on the guide, e-mail [email protected] before 12 December.
For an article on this subject by Ruth Hansford, which appeared in the August 2010 edition of SHP, visit:

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12 years ago

Have classical instruments become louder in last decades? No. So…?
No one mentions listening to very loud music. Our societies accept it, and so do the musicians. That’s where their hearing loss originates. There was no such epidemic among orchestral musicians before modern listening devices and powered sound systems appeared.
Missing these points renders all the debates on the subject useless. And no one should make the society pay for personal lifestyle choices. See The Strad’s website.

12 years ago

Surely education allows people to make an “educated decision”.

Secondly, we will undoubtedly have to pay on the NHS for tests and treatment, so if we can reduce the amount of people damaging their ears, then its a win all round.

12 years ago

Musicians in Orchestras have long known of the problems of hearing loss associated with playing, it is not a new problem. There has been a concerted effort amongst professional musicians (inclusing pop and rock) to highlight the case of hearing loss and as such, there are many changes that have happened recently when playing live. As to listening to loud music, this differentiates the musician from the listener. Its the consumer that should be educated