Some six million teens nationwide suffer some type of loss of hearing, and this number has risen considerably over the last 20 years. While experts claim that this hearing loss is in part caused by sustained exposure to high volumes of music from portable players and phones, taking part in marching band is yet another possible cause. As almost every urban high school and college has a marching band, band membership is a very common activity among teens.

Young people and loud sounds. Volume, or noise level, is measured in decibels (dB). Adults and children can suffer hearing loss from exposure to noises in excess of 85 dB. Some of the instruments in marching band can easily surpass the 85dB mark when the teens are practicing or performing. For example, Duke University students were exposed to decibel levels of 99 over a half hour during drumline practice. 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.

Prevention and protection strategies. An effective solution for reducing sound levels is the use of musicians earplugs. These professional earplugs are designed to fit perfectly in the teen’s ears. However, parents often find them to be expensive. 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. Band leaders and participants also need to be aware of how important it is to lower the volume of their instruments when practicing indoors. To best protect the hearing of marching band members, a joint effort between students, band leaders, and parents is recommended.