Around six million U.S. teenagers have some form of hearing loss, which signifies an increase of about 33 % over the past 2 decades. While authorities 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 another contributing cause. As nearly every urban high school and college has a marching band, participation is a very common activity among teenagers.

Teenagers and loud sounds. Noise levels are measured in decibels, also written as 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. An experiment at Duke University showed that a drumline rehearsal exposed students to decibel levels of 99 over a 30-minute period. However, playing those instruments indoors for rehearsals can be even more harmful to teens’ hearing. Sometimes teens don’t want to reduce the volume of their instruments just because they are inside.

Strategies for hearing protection and hearing loss prevention. Musicians earplugs are effective at reducing the sound levels that reach the inner ear. These professional earplugs are designed to fit perfectly in the teen’s ears. 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. 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.