Military musicians are working in a noisy environment with high sound exposure levels above the international standards. Aim of the current study is to find out, whether they develop the expected hearing impairments. Adherence to the regulations for prevention in musicians is more difficult than in other occupational fields.
In an interval of 13.3 years, 36 out of 58 male military musicians of a German army music corps were subjected twice to an audiometric audit. There were no exclusion criteria apart from acute ENT infections (three musicians). These results were compared with one another and evaluated by means of statistical methods for relationships with several factors.
At frequencies below 3 kHz, the follow-up audiograms were up to 5 dB better than the preliminary examination. From 4 kHz up to 8 kHz the preliminary investigations showed less hearing impairment. Averaging all frequencies the improvement of hearing ability was around 1 dB. Above 1 kHz the average hearing of the right ear was up to 7 dB better than that of the left ear. Age-induced hearing loss was 3 to 8 dB lower than predicted by ISO standards over the entire frequency range. The side of the ear (right/left) and the frequency (3, 4, and 6 kHz) were significant (p < 0.05) in hearing loss, whereas the influence of the instrument and the acoustic traumata were not.
Despite the high noise levels, the average hearing ability of the 36 military musicians during the investigation period only slightly deteriorated in the noise-sensitive frequencies (3, 5 and 6 kHz). Music may be less harmful than industrial noise, or the long-term auditory training of the musicians leads to a delayed presbycusis.