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Horne School of Music Health and Safety Information

It is the policy of the Snow College Music Department that all students understand the basic risks to health and safety associated with the study of music. This document contains important information concerning your health and safety as a musician as well as strategies for managing those risks. Please read it carefully and discuss any concerns that might develop with your teachers. Remember, when it comes to issues of health and safety, there is no “rank or tenure.” If you see an unsafe or potentially dangerous situation, please report it immediately to the nearest faculty member or supervisor. We hope that by paying attention to these issues, you will have a long and productive relationship with music. 

Health and safety depend in large part on the personal decisions of informed individuals. Institutions have health and safety responsibilities, but fulfillment of these responsibilities can and will not ensure any specific individuals' health and safety. Too many factors beyond any institution's control are involved. Individuals have a critically important role and each is personally responsible for avoiding risk and preventing injuries to themselves before, during, and after study at any institution. The information below does not alter or cancel any individuals' personal responsibility, or in any way shift personal responsibility for the results of any individuals' personal decisions or actions in any instance or over time to any institution.

Hearing Protection
National Association of Schools of Music and Performing Arts Medicine Association
 from: Protect Your Hearing Every Day: Information and Recommendations for Student Musicians NASM/PAMA: November 2011 IV-2 and, East Texas Baptist University Music Student Handbook 

In working toward a degree in music, you are joining a profession with a long and honored history. Part of the role of any professional is to remain in the best condition to practice the profession.
For all of you, as aspiring musicians, this involves safeguarding your hearing health. Whatever your plans after graduation – whether they involve playing, teaching, engineering, or simply enjoying music – you owe it to yourself and your fellow musicians to do all you can to protect your hearing. Certain behaviors and your exposure to certain sounds can, over time, damage your hearing.

You may be young now, but you're never too young for the onset of hearing loss. Most cases of noise-related hearing loss do not develop overnight. In fact, the majority of noise-induced hearing loss happens gradually. The behaviors that contribute to hearing loss can cause damage that will accumulate through a lifetime. So the next time you find yourself blasting music through the earbuds of your iPod or turning up the volume on your amp, ask yourself―Am I going to regret this someday? The answer is, you probably will. As a musician, you cannot afford to risk it.

The bottom line is this: If you're serious about pursuing a career in music, you need to protect your hearing. The way you hear music, the way you recognize and differentiate pitch, the way you play music; all are directly connected to your hearing. Do yourself a favor: protect it.

he information in this document is generic and advisory in nature. It is not a substitute for professional, medical judgments. It should not be used as a basis for medical treatment. If you are concerned about your hearing or think you may have suffered hearing loss, consult a licensed medical professional.

Purpose of this Resource Document
The purpose of this document is to share with you some information on hearing health and hearing loss and let you know about the precautionary measures that all of us should practice daily. Your ensemble directors and private applied lesson teachers will reinforce this information with you throughout your time at Snow College.

Music and Noise
This document addresses what is termed―noise-induced hearing loss. You may be wondering why we're referring to music—this beautiful form of art and self-expression—as “noise.”
Here's why: What we know about hearing health comes from medical research and practice. Both are based in science where “noise” is a general term for sound. Music is simply one kind of sound.
Obviously, there are thousands of others. In science-based work, all types of sound, including music, are regularly categorized as different types of noise.

Terminology aside, it's important to remember this fundamental point: A sound that it too loud, or too loud for too long, is dangerous to hearing health, no matter what kind of sound it is or whether we call it noise, music, or something else.

Music itself is not the issue. Loudness and its duration are the issues. Music plays an important part in hearing health, but hearing health is far larger than music. All of us, as musicians, are responsible for our art. We need to cultivate a positive relationship between music and our hearing health. Balance, as in so many things, is an important part of this relationship.

Noise-Induced Permanent Hearing Loss
Let's first turn to what specialists refer to as noise-induced permanent hearing loss.

The ear is made up of three sections: the outer, middle, and inner ear. Sounds must pass through all three sections before signals are sent to the brain. Here's the simple explanation of how we experience sound:
Sound, in the form of sound waves, enters the outer ear. These waves travel through the bones of the middle ear. When they arrive in the inner ear, they are converted into electrical signals that travel via neural passages to the brain. It is then that you experience hearing the sound. Now, when a loud noise enters the ear, it poses a risk to the ear's inner workings. For instance, a very loud sound, an explosion, for example, or a shotgun going off at close range, can actually dislodge the tiny bones in the middle ear, causing conductive hearing loss, which involves a reduction in the sound level experienced by the listener and a reduction in the listener's ability to hear faint sounds. In many cases, this damage can be repaired with surgery. But loud noises like this are also likely to send excessive sound levels into the inner ear, where permanent hearing damage occurs. The inner ear, also known as the cochlea, is where most hearing-loss-related ear damage tends to occur. Inside the cochlea are tiny hair cells that are responsible for transmitting sound waves to the brain. When a loud noise enters the inner ear, it can damage the hair cells, thus impairing their ability to send neural impulses to the brain.

The severity of a person's noise-induced hearing loss depends on the severity of the damage to these hair cells. The extent of the damage to these cells is normally related to the length and rate of recurrence of a person's exposure to loud sounds over long periods of time.

Because noise-induced hearing loss is painless, you may not realize that it's happening at first. Then suddenly one day you will realize that you're having more and more trouble hearing high frequency sounds – the ones that are the most high-pitched. If you don't start to take precautions then, your hearing loss may eventually also affect your ability to perceive both speech sounds and music.

It is very important to understand that these hair cells in your inner ear cannot regenerate. Any damage done to them is permanent. At this time, there is simply no way to repair or undo the damage.

FACT: According to the American Academy of Audiology, approximately 36 million Americans have hearing loss. One in three developed their hearing loss as a result of exposure to noise.

Noise-Induced Temporary Hearing Loss
Now it's also important to note that not all noise-induced hearing loss is necessarily permanent. Sometimes, after continuous, prolonged exposure to a loud noise, we may experience what's called “noise-induced temporary hearing loss.”

During temporary hearing loss, known as Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS), hearing ability is reduced. Outside noises may sound fuzzy or muted. Normally, this lasts no more than 16 to 18 hours, at which point your hearing levels will return to normal.

Often during this TTS, people will experience tinnitus, a medical condition characterized by a ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the ears. Tinnitus may last only a few minutes, but it can also span several hours, or, in extreme instances, last indefinitely.

Also, if you experience a series of temporary hearing losses, you may be well on the way to permanent damage sometime in the future.

Noise Levels and Risk
Now, how do you know when a noise or sound is a threat to your hearing health? Most experts agree that prolonged exposure to any noise or sound over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. You may have seen decibels abbreviated “dB.” They are the units we use to measure the intensity of a sound.
Two important things to remember:

1. The longer you are exposed to a loud noise, the greater the potential for hearing loss.
2. The closer you are to the source of a loud noise, the greater the risk that you'll experience some damage to your hearing mechanisms.

At this point, it helps to have some frame of reference. How loud are certain noises?
Consider these common sounds, their corresponding decibel levels, and the recommended maximum exposure times established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Sound Intensity (dB) Maximum Recommended Exposure (approx.)* 

A Whisper


30Db, No Maximum

Rainfall (moderate)


50Db, No Maximum

Conversation (average)


60Db, No Maximum

Freeway Traffic


70Db, No Maximum

Alarm Clock


80Db, No Maximum


85 Potential Damage Threshold 

Blender, Blow-dryer

Potential Damage

90Db, 2 Hours

MP3 Player (full volume)

Potential Damage

100Db, 15 Minutes

Rock Concerts, Power Tools

Potential Damage

110Db, 2 Minutes

Jet Plane at Takeoff

Immediate Risk

120Db, Unsafe

Sirens, Jackhammers

Immediate Risk 

130Db, Unsafe

Gunshots, Fireworks (close range)

Immediate Risk

140Db, Unsafe


*NIOSH-recommended exposure limits
You can listen to sounds under 85dB for as long as you like. There is no risk involved, well, except for the risk of annoyance. But seriously, for sounds in this lower decibel range, listening to them for hours on end does not pose any real risk to your hearing health.
85dB is the magic number. Sounds above the 85dB threshold pose a potential threat to your hearing when you exceed the maximum recommended exposure time.

MP3 players at full volume, lawnmowers, and snowblowers come in at 100dB. The recommended maximum exposure time for these items is 15 minutes.
Now, before you get too worried and give up mowing the lawn, remember, there are ways to reduce your exposure.

For instance, turn down the volume on your MP3 player. Did you know that normally, MP3 players generate about 85dB at one-third of their maximum volume, 94dB at half volume, and 100dB or more at full volume? Translated into daily exposure time, according to NIOSH standards, 85dB equals 8 hours, 94dB equals 1 hour, and 100dB equals 15 minutes. Do yourself a favor, and be mindful of your volume.
Also, remember to wear a pair of earplugs or earmuffs when you mow the lawn or when you use a snowblower.

When you're dealing with sounds that produce between 120 and 140dB, you're putting yourself at risk for almost immediate damage. At these levels, it is imperative that you utilize protective ear-coverings. Better yet, if it's appropriate, avoid your exposure to these sounds altogether.

FACT: More than 30 million Americans expose themselves to hazardous sound levels on a regular basis.

Musicians and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Nowadays, more and more is being written about the sound levels of live musical performance. It's no secret that many rock concerts expose performers and audiences to dangerously high levels of noise. The ringing in your ears after a blaring rock concert can tell you that. But now professional and college music ensembles are under similar scrutiny.

It's true that musicians are exposed to elevated levels of sound when they rehearse and perform music. But that doesn't equal automatic risk for hearing loss.

Take, for instance, a typical practice session on the piano. When taken at close range to the instrument over a limited period of time, a sound level meter fluctuates between a reading of 60 and 70 decibels. That's similar in intensity to your average conversation (60dB). There will, of course, be moments when the music peaks and this level rises. But these moments are not sustained over several hours. At least not under normal practice conditions.

While the same is true for most instruments, it is important to understand that certain instrumental sections tend to produce higher sound levels. Sometimes these levels relate to the piece of music being performed and to notational requirements (pianissimo, fortissimo); other times, these levels are what naturally resonate from the instrument.

For example, string sections tend to produce decibel levels on the lower end of the spectrum, while brass, percussion, and woodwind sections generally produce decibel levels at the higher end of the spectrum.
What's important is that you are mindful of the overall volume of your instrument and of those around you. If you're concerned about volume levels, share your concerns with your instructor.

FACT: Approximately 50% of musicians have experienced some degree of hearing loss.

Mindful Listening
Now, let's talk about how you can be proactive when it comes to music and hearing loss.
It's important to think about the impact noise can have on your hearing health when you:
1. Attend concerts;
2. Play your instrument;
3. Adjust the volume of your car stereo;
4. Listen to your radio, CD player, and MP3 player.

Here are some simple ways to test if the music is too loud:
It's too loud (and too dangerous) when:
1. You have to raise your voice to be heard.
2. You can't hear someone who's 3 feet away from you.
3. The speech around you sounds muffled or dull after you leave a noisy area.
4. You experience tinnitus (pain, ringing, buzzing, or roaring in your ears) after you leave a noisy area.

Evaluating Your Risk for Hearing Loss
When evaluating your risk for hearing loss, ask yourself the following questions:
1. How frequently am I exposed to noises and sounds above 85 decibels?
2. What can I do to limit my exposure to such loud noises and sounds?
3. What personal behaviors and practices increase my risk of hearing loss?
4. How can I be proactive in protecting my hearing and the hearing of those around me?

Basic Protection for Musicians
Noise levels in the music facility have been measured during a variety of rehearsal and practice circumstances and found to be safe by OSHA standards. However, as musicians, it's vital that you take responsibility to protect your hearing whenever possible.
Here are some simple ways to reduce your risk of hearing loss:
1. When possible, avoid situations that put your hearing health at risk.
2. Refrain from behaviors which could compromise your hearing health and the health of others.
3. If you're planning to be in a noisy environment for any significant amount of time, try to maintain a reasonable distance from the source of the sound or noise. In other words, there's no harm in enjoying a fireworks display, so long as you're far away from the launch point.
4. When attending loud concerts, be mindful of the location of your seats. Try to avoid sitting or standing too close to the stage or to the speakers, and use earplugs.
5. Keep the volume of your music and your listening devices at a safe level.
6. Remember to take breaks during a rehearsal. Your ears will appreciate this quiet time. At Snow College, Large ensembles rehearse for 2 hour blocks of time. Your directors will give you a break at the halfway point of each rehearsal.
7. Use earplugs or other protective devices in noisy environments and when using noisy equipment.
8. Hearing protection is recommended for students participating in Snow College Athletic Bands. This is particularly important for percussionists and those in close proximity to percussionists. Several manufacturers produce high quality hearing protection specifically designed for musicians. Please see your local music retailer for these products.

Future Steps
Now that you've learned about the basics of hearing health and hearing loss prevention, we encourage you to keep learning. Do your own research. Browse through the links provided at the end of this document. There's a wealth of information out there, and it's yours to discover.

We hope this resource document has made you think more carefully about your own hearing health. Just remember that all the knowledge in the world is no match for personal responsibility. We've given you the knowledge and the tools; now it's your turn. You are responsible for your exposure to all sorts of sounds, including music. Your day-to-day decisions have a great impact on your hearing health, both now and years from now.

Do yourself a favor. Be smart. Protect your precious commodity. Protect your hearing ability. Protect

Resources – Information and Research
Hearing Health Project Partners
National Association of School of Music (NASM) (
Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) (
PAMA Bibliography (search tool) (

General Information on Acoustics
Acoustical Society of America ( (
Acoustics for Performance, Rehearsal, and Practice Facilities
Available through the NASM Web site

Health and Safety Standards Organizations
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) (
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (

Medical Organizations Focused on Hearing Health
American Academy of Audiology (
American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery (
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) (
Athletes and the Arts (
House Research Institute – Hearing Health (
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders – Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (

Other Organizations Focused on Hearing Health
Dangerous Decibels (
National Hearing Conservation Association (

The following links provide helpful information that affect the health and/or safety of music students.
The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique  (
Andover Educators (body mapping)  (
Dalcroze Society of America  (
The Feldenkrais Method  (
Performing Arts Medical Association  (
Hearing Protection  (

Other Performance Related Health and Safety Issues 

Musicians use their bodies in specific and highly trained ways, and injuries can occur that can have lasting impact on performance ability. Performers need to be aware of vocal and musculoskeletal health issues that can affect them. Musicians at all levels of achievement can suffer from repetitive stress injuries, neuromuscular conditions or dystonias, and psychological issues including severe performance anxiety.
As health concerns can vary widely depending on performance area, your primary source of information regarding performance health and injury prevention will be your applied music instructor. The Department of Music will also host guest speakers and presenters to specifically address performance health, injury prevention, and treatment options. Dr. Elaine Jorgensen from the Snow College music department is available to students and faculty for consultation on Alexander Technique. If you are concerned about your health as a musician, or are experiencing discomfort in practice or performance, talk with a medical professional.

Websites for Further Information:
The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique:
Andover Educators (body mapping):
Dalcroze Society of America:
The Feldenkrais Method:
Performing Arts Medical Association:

Music Facility Technical Crew/Production Class Safety
Students employed by the music department technical crew are responsible for supporting the production of the concerts, recitals, and events held in the music facility. Below are the guidelines and procedures necessary to create a safe working environment for these employees. All employees will be trained on these guidelines and procedures to ensure that risk to the health of employees is managed effectively.


General Rules:
1. Conduct yourself in a responsible manner at all times
2. Follow all written and verbal instructions carefully. If you do not understand a direction or part of a procedure, ask the instructor and/or appropriate supervisor before proceeding.
3. Perform only those responsibilities assigned and authorized by the instructor or supervisor.
4. Horseplay, practical jokes, and pranks are dangerous and prohibited.
5. Observe good housekeeping practices. Inasmuch as possible, work areas should be kept clean and tidy.
6. Know the locations and operating procedures of all safety equipment including the first aid kit, fire extinguisher, etc.
7. Be alert and proceed with caution at all times in the work and performance areas. Notify the instructor or supervisor immediately of any unsafe conditions you observe.
8. Use caution when using sharp objects and tools. Always carry them away from your body. Never try to catch falling sharp instruments. 
9. Students who do not obey the safety guidelines and procedures will be required to leave the working area, and their course grade will be affected according to policies outlined in specific course syllabi.
10. No student will be required to do anything that they feel is dangerous or unhealthy. If a student feels that the task is dangerous, he/she must bring it to the attention of their supervisor.

Accidents and Injuries:
Report any accident (spills, breakage, etc) or injury (cut, burn, etc.) to the instructor or supervisor immediately, no matter how trivial it may appear.

Clothing and Related Matters: 
Appropriate Dress: Dress properly while working in the concert hall, recital hall, black box, storage area, or any other designated area. Do not wear loose or floppy clothing that can catch on cables or equipment. Short sleeved shirts and shorts are generally acceptable, although long sleeved shirts and trousers are required when engaged in special work such as pyrotechnics. Skirts and bare feet are never allowed in any work area.

Shoes: Closed toe shoes or boots with insulating rubber and traction soles must be worn. Sandals, flip-flops, and high-heeled shoes are never allowed in any work area.

Hair: Individuals with long hair must tie it back when in a work area. Caps to tuck in hair do not satisfy this requirement.

Jewelry: Dangling jewelry such as necklaces and bracelets are not permitted in a work area. Even rings and earrings could present a hazard. It is best to leave all jewelry at home as the work areas do not provide storage for valuables.

Consequences: It should be understood that the clothing worn in the work place is the first level of safety for the individual. It is the worker's responsibility to wear clothing that will be safe in the work place. Anyone arriving at the work place dressed inappropriately will be sent away to dress correctly and will not be logged in until so dressed. Appropriate dress will be determined by the supervisor.

Protective Equipment:
Goggles or safety glasses must be worn when using any power equipment. Goggles should be worn when the work produces sawdust, sparks, or flying debris. You will receive one warning for failing to comply. Failure to use appropriate protective equipment after a warning will result in dismissal from session. Other safety wear includes gloves and hard hats, which are required in specialized work tasks and will be indicated in the instruction of those tasks. Heat insulating gloves should be worn when focusing lights. The department provides all personal protective equipment for lighting and stage craft.

Hand Tools:
Instruction will be given on the proper use of any hand tool that a student must use. All tools are designed to facilitate specific tasks, and the appropriate tool should be used in each instance. Generally, hand tools are not considered hazardous when used properly. No tool should be used for any but its intended purpose(s). Tools are not toys and should never be thrown or handled in an inappropriate way. Failure to handle tools appropriately will result in dismissal from the lab/workshop session.

Power Tools and Equipment:
No person may operate any power tool or equipment until they have:
a) received instruction in the use of that tool/equipment
b) passed the safety check-out on the same item
c) been signed off by the supervisor confirming the satisfactory completion of
     instruction and check-out, and
d) agreed in writing that they have been satisfactorily instructed and are willing to
     use that tool/equipment. 

The misuse of power tools/equipment endangers the user and others. Power tools/equipment found to be defective or not working property may not be used and must be reported to the appropriate supervisor immediately. Such tools/equipment will be removed from service until they are properly repaired.

Electrical Safety:
Electricity follows the path of least resistance. A “short” may result in severe shock to anyone coming in contact with an unprotected channel of electrical flow. Use insulated tools with plastic or rubber handles; wear shoes with rubber soles. Electrical fires are often caused by arcing or short circuits. Maintain appropriate connections and strain relief on all cables and connectors. Locate electrical fire extinguishers in the work area. Never bypass fuses or breakers. Fiberglass ladders are best for electrical work; use metal ladders only with insulating rubber feet. Beware of water ¾ it's a good electrical conductor. Green is ground; in wiring connectors, take particular care to attach the ground wire to the proper pin of the connector.

Lighting Equipment:
The deliberate misuse of lighting tools/equipment endangers the user and others. Anyone deliberately misusing lighting tools/equipment (in ways or for purposes other than instructed) will be dismissed from the lab/workshop session. Lighting tools/equipment found to be defective or not working properly may not be used and must be reported to the lighting supervisor immediately. Such tools/equipment will be removed from service until they are properly repaired.
Precautions for Light Hanging:
When working above others, carry a minimum of tools and always tie them off. Take special precautions to avoid falling gel frames, pens, pencils, gobo holders, lamps, or other accessories. All lighting equipment mounted overhead must be secured to the pipe with a safety cable in addition to the C-clamp. The safety cable should ideally be attached to the instrument itself rather than the yoke.

Precautions for Changing Lamps:
Always disconnect power from the instrument before checking or changing a lamp. DO NOT TOUCH the lamp with your bare hands; the oil from your skin will cause the lamp to explode or otherwise be destroyed. Be sure you know the correct method of changing that particular lamp in that particular instrument. Connect power to the instrument only after lamp replacement is completed and the instrument is fully closed.
Safety for Pyrotechnics:
No student may operate a pyrotechnic device until you have received formal instruction in its use. All pyrotechnic devices are extremely dangerous. Use only commercially manufactured flash-pot systems and always follow instructions carefully. Never fire flash pots close to flammable materials or to people.

Ladder Safety:
Use ladders with care near electrical circuits. Refrain from ladder usage if you are not in good physical condition; the weight limit is 300 lbs total for all people and equipment, unless labeled otherwise. Only one person on a ladder at a time. Do not use a ladder in front of unlocked doors. Place all ladder feet on firm level ground. Never walk, bounce, or move the ladder while on it. Do not use equipment in a way that makes you feel unsafe. Do not overreach. Use caution when pushing or pulling anything from you as you may lose your balance. Never use a chair or stool as a ladder. Never use a closed ladder as a straight ladder or a platform, plank, or brace. Face the ladder and maintain a firm grip while on the ladder.

Do not leave anything on top of a ladder. Inspect ladders for damage before each useOpen the ladder up and lock the spreaders open. Come down from the ladder before moving it. Close the ladder and put it away when finished. Do not try to repair ladders. Normally, do not place anything under or attached to the ladder to increase height or adjust for uneven surfaces — get permission from the supervisor before leveling and climbing such a ladder.

Precautions for Genie Lift:
No student may operate the Genie Lift until you have received formal instruction in its use. Inspect the machine completely before use. Lower the platform entry gate before operating. Do not exceed the rated platform load capacity; maximum occupancy is one person. Do not raise the platform unless the base is level, all four outriggers are properly installed and the leveling jacks firmly contact the floor. Do not adjust or remove the outriggers while the platform is occupied or raised. Do not move the machine while the platform is raised. Do not push off or pull toward any object outside the platform. Do not raise the platform unless the machine is on a firm, level surface. Do not alter or disable machine components. Do not use the machine to lift more than one lighting instrument at a time, in addition to the operator. Do not sit, stand, or climb on the platform guard rails. Do not exit the platform while raised.

Disabilities, Permanent or Temporary:
The work areas of the theatre abide by the Federal Disabilities Act for equal access and opportunity. However, some disabilities may cause the disabled individual or others to be endangered in some activities. It shall be the determination of the supervisor whether such disabilities could result in endangerment. If it is determined that endangerment exists, alternative work for the disabled individual will be provided by the supervisor. Any student is expected to fulfill all the class requirements to successfully complete the course.
Students with documented disabilities should meet with the instructor/supervisor at the beginning of the class/crew assignment to determine effective assessment of those disabilities in regard to required tasks and activities.

Persons taking medications should notify the supervisor. Those taking medications which may affect balance, motor skills, depth perception, or mental functions may not operate power tools, lighting equipment, climb, or do any activities where those affected functions are involved.

Anyone in the work place under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol will be dismissed immediately and will be reported to the proper authorities. The work areas of the theatre always pose potential hazards. Every student should behave responsibly and should report anyone not doing so.

Retrieved in part from from: