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Steve Mosher’s ears take a beating at work: they actually hurt during particularly noisy moments, are ringing by the end of some shifts, and after 20-plus years on the job are now afflicted permanently with tinnitus. Using 10 performances of  Romeo and Juliet — the company’s highest-volume ballet — as their lab, the scientists documented the level of noise exposure experienced by every member of the 70-person ensemble.
The same team conducted a similar study earlier on the Canadian Opera Company orchestra, as the classical music world increasingly turns its attention to a workplace hazard more commonly associated with heavy industry, or at least the kind of music played in hockey arenas, not concert halls.
The acoustics are so bad for players in the orchestra pit at the Sydney Opera House, for instance, some perform inside plastic enclosures or can work only two nights in a row to avoid noise damage.
He and some of his colleagues now wear customized ear plugs, which reduce the sound levels but do not eliminate them.
For the study published this month in the journal Noise and Health, a team from the University of Toronto’s sensory communications group attached microphones to the musicians’ shoulders — as close to their ears as possible — with a wire connecting them to a bulky box at their waist that recorded the “dose” of noise.
Some of the National Ballet musicians were exposed to levels as high as 94 decibels, equivalent to the sound of an electric drill. The flute is actually surprisingly loud and is played extensively throughout most pieces, while flutists sit in front of the clarinets, another high-decibel instrument,  noted Mr.

The study concluded that the musicians were not, in fact, at risk of hearing loss, based on the levels recorded and internationally accepted standards. Still, the outcome of the study “was a relief” for the orchestra, said Raymond Tizzard, a violinist with the group for 32 years who is now its assistant personnel manager. Most are worried not so much about life-altering hearing loss as damage that would impair their ability to play well, he said.
The University of Toronto team advised the musicians to lessen risk of hearing loss by being extra careful in other aspects of their lives, something Mr. Mosher plays in the orchestra of the National Ballet, Canada’s premiere classical dance company, and his concerns about long-term hearing loss led to a novel study that has just been published by researchers at the University of Toronto. A 2003 study of the Finnish National Opera found musicians and others were exposed to levels exceeding government standards, and urged ear protection. Just as dancers might downplay injuries, though, orchestra musicians tend to keep quiet about any hearing problems, fearful of jeopardizing their sought-after positions, said Mr.
To avoid under-estimating the risk, they chose performances of Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, the loudest ballet the company performs, then extrapolated the results across the full season of shows and rehearsals.

Willy Wong, whose wife, Etsuko Kimura, is herself a violinist in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Interestingly, the flute and piccolo players absorbed the loudest noise, followed by brass instruments and the double bass. They were near the point of unhealthy exposure, however, and it is possible some individuals who are particularly susceptible to hearing damage could be vulnerable, said Mr.
During performances, orchestra members are “intently listening to everything going on,” said Mr. He plugs his ears when close to a screeching subway train or wailing siren, and is sure to don earplugs while wielding his lawn mower or power saw at home.

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06.05.2015 admin

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