NUI Galway Research Highlights Harmful Effects of Noise Exposure

Monday, 20 December 2010

A Postgraduate research project recently completed in the School of Physics focusing on noise levels at Irish traditional music and Irish rock performances, has shown high levels of noise exposure among musicians and the potential for increased risks to hearing. This study also highlights the need for increased awareness training in relation to the harmful effects of repeated high noise exposure among musicians. Some of the results exceeded the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 relating to the control of noise at work. The data from the project shows that personal noise exposures of all the rock/pop musicians sampled exceed the 87dB(A) exposure limit value as detailed in the 2007 regulations and half of the traditional Irish musicians sampled exceeded the 87dB(A) exposure limit value. To obtain these results, Helena O'Sullivan, an MSc student with Dr Marie Coggins at the School of Physics in NUI Galway, measured noise levels at static monitoring points on the stage during the music performance, and ranged from 85 to 90 dB(A) during traditional Irish music performances and from 101 – 107 dB(A) during Irish rock/pop music performances. The personal noise exposure level of one band member (either the singer or the drummer) was also measured, and they ranged from 100 to 102 dB(A) for members of the Irish rock/pop bands and 88 - 95 dB(A) for members of the Traditional Irish music bands. The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 relating to the control of noise at work, sets out an exposure action value of 85dB(A) and an exposure limit value of 87dB(A) for a daily or weekly personal exposure. These limits apply to people working in a noisy environment and do not apply to the general public. Workers who are regularly exposed to noise levels of 85dB (A) have an increased risk of noise induced hearing loss. Dr Marie Coggins, Director of the MSc in Occupational Health and Safety Programme at NUI Galway says: "The harmful effects of repeated exposure to high sound levels, have long been recognised, and much progress has been made in reducing noise exposures in many work environments. However, high noise levels and exposure to noise continues to be an issue for the entertainment sector. This project highlights the need for further investigation in the area." Using the data collected in the study, an estimate for the eight hour equivalent noise dose for comparison with the recommended guidelines in the 2007 regulations, was calculated. This estimate does not take into consideration other sources of noise exposure that the band members may have received at another point in their day, and so may be underestimating the risk. Results from a questionnaire survey, as part of the research, detailing experiences musicians report in relation to noise exposure show that 52% of respondents regularly experience a ringing sensation in their ears after a performance, and 60% reported that they do not use hearing protection. Helena O'Sullivan has just completed a one year taught MSc programme in Occupational Health and Safety at NUI Galway.


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Keywords: Research.

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