Around 6 million American teenagers have some variety of hearing loss, which signifies an increase of about a third over the last 2 decades. While authorities claim that this hearing loss is in part caused by sustained exposure to high volumes of music from phones and MP3 players, taking part in marching band is yet another contributing cause. Marching band is a popular activity for teenagers, as bands are available in almost all large high schools and in almost every university.

Harmful decibel levels for teens.Noise levels are measured in decibels, also written as 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. An experiment at Duke University showed that a drumline rehearsal exposed students to decibel levels of 99 over a 30-minute period. What can be even more damaging than playing those instruments on the field is playing indoors for rehearsals. Unfortunately, many youths don’t reduce the volume of their instruments when playing inside.

Strategies for hearing protection and hearing loss prevention. Musicians earplugs are effective at reducing the sound levels that reach the inner ear. Musicians earplugs are custom-designed to fit an individual’s ear perfectly. Musicians earplugs can be expensive, which may be a problem for parents. Shorter rehearsal sessions are another good approach to protecting teens hearing, because it breaks up the time for which they are exposed to potentially damaging decibel levels. Increased awareness among teens and band leaders of the importance of reducing instrument sound levels when playing indoors is also key. To best protect the hearing of marching band members, a joint effort between students, band leaders, and parents is recommended.