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Marching Band? Don't Forget the Ear Plugs

Musicians can quickly exceed safe limits for loud noise without protection

Is your teenager headed to marching band practice? In addition to bottled water and sunscreen, you might also want to send them off with hearing protection. Michelle Tejada, an audiologist and manager of the Hearing and Balance Center at University Health System, has a few tips for protecting the ears of your young musician.

Research shows the typical marching band produces 100 dB of sound. Most people can safely tolerate just 15 minutes of sound at that level of loudness. A drumline averages 102 dB, which is safe for less than 10 minutes.

If your child complains of sound being muffled or ringing in the ears after band practice, damage to the ear has already occurred, and steps should be taken to prevent hearing loss. Even without symptoms, hearing loss can occur gradually and may not be noticed for years after exposure. By the time the problem is noticed, the damage has already occurred. Therefore, prevention is critical.

The good news is that hearing loss can be prevented. Specially designed earplugs are available for musicians that will reduce the loudness of sound while maintaining the clarity of the music. They reduce the sound equally at all frequencies. Thus, the balance of the sound is maintained but the sound is softer and safer.

Musicians often perform better as well, since the ear distorts sounds at high levels. Musician’s earplugs are available in custom-molded or generic forms and are surprisingly affordable.

More information on this topic is available at To request an interview with Michelle Tejada, contact a member of University Health System’s Corporate Communications staff at 210-358-2335.

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