Journal of the Audio Engineering Society

2016 March - Volume 64 Number 3


Frequent exposure to high-level music can produce physiological changes in the auditory system. Damage to the outer hair cells within the cochlea can lead to a loss of sensitivity to weak sounds, loudness recruitment (rapid growth in loudness with increasing level), and reduced frequency selectivity. Damage to the inner hair cells and/or synapses leads to degeneration of neurons in the auditory nerve. This leads to poorer auditory discrimination, reduced sensitivity to the temporal fine structure of sounds, and to poor pitch perception. Hearing aids compensate for the effects of threshold elevation and loudness recruitment via multichannel amplitude compression, but they do not compensate for reduced frequency selectivity or loss of inner hair cells, synapses, and neurons. Hearing aids can reduce sound quality because of several factors, including limited frequency range, irregular frequency response, artifacts produced by feedback-cancellation systems, frequency shifting if activated, processing time delays, and distortion for high sound levels.

Because music-induced hearing disorders and noise pollution from concerts emerge at the crossroads of technology, culture, and society, this paper argues that multidisciplinary approaches are required to address these two issues. Even though noise regulations and hearing risk-mitigation policies may be different, best practices originate from procedures and policies that are developed from an understanding of the multiple stakeholder perspectives. Each stakeholder has a unique perspective but these conflicting differences must be reconciled one way or another. Technology may offer options.

This study surveys non-orchestral musicians playing in pipe, jazz, concert, wind, or brass bands regarding their perceived risk of music-induced hearing damage, rates of self-reported hearing loss, and use of earplugs and acoustic screens while playing in an ensemble. A questionnaire was administered to 257 Australian band musicians and the data were compared to responses obtained previously from 367 orchestral musicians. The results showed that band and orchestral musicians had similar rates of self-reported hearing loss, but band musicians were significantly less likely to perceive risk or to use protective equipment. Among the band types, pipe band musicians had the highest incidence of hearing loss, greatest awareness of risk, and highest rates of earplug use. In contrast, brass band musicians demonstrated poor risk awareness and a reluctance to use protective equipment. The authors recommend the education of band musicians and hearing care providers regarding available earplug technology as well as the continued development of earplugs optimized for musicians.

High-frequency hearing loss among teenagers and young adolescents has been shown to result from high sound levels in nightclubs, concert halls, and headphones. Sound reinforcement systems can raise the average sound levels at concerts to 105 dB SPL. This experiment provides evidence that in a regular concert environment (with listeners sitting quietly in their seats) the preferred sound level (Laeq) for classical music and smaller jazz and big band groups was about 73–85 dB. In fact, the score on overall pleasantness drops somewhat when sound levels were either too high or too low. This relationship has an inverted U-shape. The most influential factor on overall pleasantness was fidelity—the naturalness of sound. This is the first study where the experience of sound level in concert-goers has been investigated using psychological methods. Surveys among concert listeners reveal that they predominantly complain about excessively loud sound.


[Feature] It is currently important to build small, efficient loudspeaker systems that can be installed in mobile devices. These sorts of transducers are particularly susceptible to problems such as rub and buzz because they don’t have the mechanical stability of larger loudspeakers. They may also need more sophisticated protection than larger units. We find that one might want to treat with some scepticism the idea that coating one’s tweeters with exotic vapor deposits will improve sound quality. There is also some evidence that distributed-mode loudspeakers will have difficulty reproducing accurate impulse responses.

141st Convention, Los Angeles, Call for Papers

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60th Conference Report, Leuven

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140th Convention Preview, Paris

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Special Issue on Dereverberation and Reverberation of Audio Music and Speech, Call for Papers

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2016 Conference on Audio for Virtual and Augmented Reality, Los Angeles, Call for Contributions

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Section News

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Products and Developments

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Book Review

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Annual Report

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AES Conventions and Conferences

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Table of Contents

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Cover & Sustaining Members List

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AES Officers, Committees, Offices & Journal Staff

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