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Hearing Health

On this page you will find information about:

  • Sound Advice
  • Noise
  • Hearing health surveillance for freelance musicians

Sound Advice

Overall, noise at work issues are covered by The Control Of Noise At Work Regulations 2005 (CNWR) but because of the very specific situation in music and entertainment, a specially written guidance document called Sound Advice was drawn up.

Local authority enforcement officers are responsible to ensure that all premises comply with the CNWR, and have powers to serve a Health & Safety Improvement Notice if an employer’s premises are found to be in breach of the regulations.

This is separate from the local authority responsibilities for the noise created by a venue and its effect on those around it.

Noise is measured in decibels (dB) and there are two action levels — these are at 80dB(A) and 85dB(A).

  • First Action Values require that suitable hearing protection must be made available for workers when there’s a daily or weekly exposure above 80dB(A), or a peak sound pressure of 135dB(C).
  • Second Action Values require that suitable hearing protection must be used when the daily or weekly exposure exceeds 85dB(A), or a peak sound pressure of 137dB(C).
  • Exposure Limit Values, which must not be exceeded are a daily or weekly level of 87dB(A) or a peak sound pressure of 140dB(C). These limit values take account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection.

Please note that the typical dB(A) levels reached by a rock band can be anything up to 125dB(A), and for a symphony orchestra, 94dB(A).

There are a number of jobs that have additional hearing factors to consider, such as DJs and sound engineers.

Noise

Noise is a particular problem for musicians as, unlike most other jobs, noise is part of the product and not an unwanted by-product. Nevertheless, musicians are affected by noise levels as workers in any industry are, and their hearing is crucial for the job they do.

“Noise induced hearing loss is 100% irreversible but is 100% preventable”
Paul Checkley, Musicians Hearing Services

This presents interesting challenges for members and we have sought to assist members in dealing with these. A good resource of overall information is given on the HSE Sound Advice website.

The music and entertainment sectors are unique from other areas of work in that high noise levels and extremely loud special effects are often regarded as essential elements of an event. However, loud sounds, whatever their source, can damage your hearing. Hearing damage is permanent, irreversible and can cause deafness.

Hearing health surveillance

There is no requirement for the self-employed and freelancers to have their own health surveillance. However, the self-employed and freelancers are strongly advised to arrange their own hearing health surveillance if they think their exposure levels regularly exceed the Second Action Value, they regularly have to wear hearing protection, or they have other concerns about their hearing.

Causes of deafness

Hearing loss can be caused by many things, including the natural ageing process, hereditary causes, health problems, head injuries, ear infections plus some drugs for illnesses can have the side effect of causing deafness.

A noise-induced hearing loss has distinguishing characteristic features that are detectable after a hearing test. There is a range of hearing that is described by doctors as ‘within normal limits’. The fact that you may have worked in noise does not necessarily mean that you have any hearing problems, or that those problems have been caused by work.

Often, hobbies can cause deafness, such as shooting, the power tools used in DIY and discos. These factors may account for all or at least part of your deafness.

If you wish to pursue a deafness claim, contact your Regional Office.