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Hazardous Exposure to Noise: in concert band setting

Has any forum members' groups looked at noise exposure in rehearsal and performance? What level of awareness and understanding is there in your membership? What actions have your group taken?

I have been looking into the levels of noise endured during rehearsal, and have prepared a discussion document that I will present to my wind band in a couple of days. While the issue is well understood in professional and military music groups, it seems to hardly reach the consciousness of community bands. As people attend voluntarily, the duty of care regarding health and safety of members is less clear cut or considered as it would be for employees.

My conclusion is that members are advised to buy and use ear protection. I attach my document.

What thoughts and conclusions have others had about this?

Chris
 

Attachments

  • Noise exposure in rehearsal and use of personal hearing protection.pdf
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Gandalfe

Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
Administrator
Nice research, analysis, and recommendations Chris. Thank you for the share.

In the two bands I run, a big band and a classic hits (think Tower of Power) we have one fellow who quit because of the noise and many folk who wear earplugs. The average age of these two ensembles is somewhere in the 50s. In the community band I'm in, the director works hard to control the noise level even though the room is a high ceiling room (which helps).

One of the requirements for my house when looking to purchase has always been a high ceiling in the living/piano/quartet room. Suzy has always done a great job of fulfilling that requirement. We have a parlor (vice baby or grand) piano which can be too loud for a low-ceiling room.
 
The ceiling height will help a lot. As in the discussion document, doubling the distance will half the energy, and if the ceiling bounces sound back, the higher it is, the weaker the reflected sound will be. That also goes for walls, and we rehearse in a drama studio that has side curtains we can close.

Another change could be raising the forward facing brass 1 meter which will put the direct force of the sound over the heads of the people in front. We do not have staging to be able to do that. We do have the room to distance them them from the row in front of them, though.

We have looked into acoustic barriers, but they give minimal protection and are likely to increase the exposure by reflection to the players playing towards them.

We can also change the order of pieces played in rehearsal, alternating loud and quieter pieces to give hearing some recovery time.

Chris
 

Gandalfe

Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
Administrator
A friend of mine lets us use his studio barn for two of my ensembles. Within a month of moving in, we put blankets over the windows, rugs on the walls and such to make the place useable. Made a big difference, but not enough for all.

Here's how I designed my studio back in the day. Loved that place. Miss it a lot: https://biskey7.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/casa-du-glassa-music-studio-by-design/
 
I gig for a living.

I use sound pressure level meters to measure the volume. Anything over 85db, "slow response", "A weighted" means I need protection. You can get decent sound level meters at most good electronics store, on-line at Parts Express or even Amazon.

I use either Etymotic or Westone musician's ear plugs. I get the mold fitted to my ear canals at an audiologist's office and usually have them sent back with both a 15db and a 25db filter. The 15db frequency response is almost flat, and the 25db has a little roll off in higher frequencies.

Make sure the audiologist knows to make the mold deep, past the first bend of your ear canal, or you may get too much internal feedback through your bones, making it difficult to hear the external sounds.

Protecting your hearing is very important, as they are your primary musical instrument.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
We have looked into acoustic barriers, but they give minimal protection and are likely to increase the exposure by reflection to the players playing towards them.
I went to a concert that daughter #2 was singing in. The drum kit "area" had (probably) polycarbonate panels on both sides and the front, which I have seen since the 1980s or so. One thing that was new was the "area" also had a roof of some darkish material.

I don't really think it helped much.
 
I play in both big band and rock settings (woodwinds and keyboards). I always wear earplugs... period. I like the erymotics as well but have used the Hearos brand
 
You never know if the sound is too loud or not, unless you have a sound pressure meter.

If the volume is 110db and you have 15db attenuators in your ear plugs, you can still permanantly damage your ears.

They have SPL apps for your phone, but don't trust them. No two phone models are alike, different mics, different circuitry, different components and so on. Get a meter, I think you can get a decent one for around $50 and it'll be one of the best investments you ever made.

Notes ♫
 
I've recently started bringing earplugs to community band. I of course sit in front of Trumpets.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
I don't know if I could do the earplug thing. When I was playing or singing, I relied a lot on hearing what the other sections were playing/singing and I think earplugs would make things more difficult to hear. It might be that I could get used to it.
 
Acclimatisation is important. Use for personal practice first, and possibly with a dB meter in front of you so you can make sure you are not playing louder to compensate for the different feedback you get.

Also, the ear plugs do not need much attenuation properties to turn the sound level from hazardous to safe.

Chris
 

saxhound

Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
The good earplugs mostly attenuate the treble frequencies, which do the most damage - think screaming lead guitar and crashing cymbals. I always try to set up as far away from the guitars as possible, and then put one ear plug in the side facing them if necessary.
 
I don't know if I could do the earplug thing. When I was playing or singing, I relied a lot on hearing what the other sections were playing/singing and I think earplugs would make things more difficult to hear. It might be that I could get used to it.
Try the Westone or Etymotic ear plugs, they are made for musicians, and have an almost flat response, so you can hear everything as it should be, but the volume is turned down.

They do take a bit of getting used to, but they will save your hearing so that your career won't fade out with your ability to hear.

I tried the 'one size fits all' first, and liked them. Then I upgraded to ones that a hearing aid technician fitted molds for me ears. They work even better if they are long enough, because they minimize the bone conduction from your reed to your ears.

Notes ♫
 
I actually bowed-out of a concert band's Holiday concert last month as December's concert is always on a very small stage with the brass are right behind my section (I usually play flute for the December concert).
The last two December concerts I did there were times when I couldn't hear/tell if I was even playing....just moved my fingers and hoped for the best.
Totally uncomfortable - I'll pass, thank you.
 
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