ASA/NOISE-CON 2005 Meeting, Minneapolis, MN


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Noise Exposure Associated with Marching and Pep Bands

Joseph Keefe - jkeefe@verizon.net
Ostergaard Acoustical Associates
200 Executive Dr.
West Orange, NJ 07052

Popular version of paper 3pNS
Presented Wednesday afternoon, October 19, 2005
ASA/NOISE-CON 2005 Meeting, Minneapolis, MN

This paper describes the potential for hearing loss for student musicians and music educators who participate in marching band. Although some marching band sound exposures can be safe, often they represent a risk of hearing loss. Student musicians and music educators should be aware of this risk and should take steps to counter it with hearing protection.

Background
During the 2003 marching band season, a sound level meter was used to record the sound pressure levels in decibels during the activities of the Duke University Marching Band (85 members, 78 instrumentalists) and the Riverside High School Marching Band (Durham, NC) (61 members, 42 instrumentalists). Using nine years of personal marching band experience, the researcher took measurements as realistically as possible.

Sound pressure levels reported in this paper will be presented in dB(A), which stands for A-weighted decibels. The A-weighting scale mimics the response of human hearing. The higher the sound pressure level, the louder a sound is perceived by a listener.


MEASUREMENTS
Sound pressure levels were measured under the following conditions:

  • Indoor marching band rehearsal without percussion (drumline)
  • Indoor marching band rehearsal with percussion
  • Marching percussion only rehearsal
  • Outdoor marching band rehearsal
  • Outdoor marching band performance
  • Indoor pep band performance

    Sound pressure levels measured during rehearsals and performance were compared to the noise exposure criteria of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health). Both express exposure in terms of a dose percentage, which is a percentage of the daily maximum permissible exposure. Thus, doses less than 100% are considered to be safe, while doses greater than or equal to 100% are considered to be unsafe.

    OSHA says that risk of hearing loss begins at any exposure equivalent to 90 dB(A) for 8 hours, and that this risk doubles every time the sound pressure level increases by 5 decibels. Thus, a 100% OSHA dose could be exposure to an equivalent level of 90 dB(A) for 8 hours, 95 dB(A) for 4 hours, or 100 dB(A) for 2 hours. NIOSH says that risk of hearing loss begins at any exposure equivalent to 85 dB(A) for 8 hours, and that this risk doubles every time the sound pressure level increases by 3 decibels. A 100% NIOSH dose could be exposure to an equivalent level of 85 dB(A) for 8 hours, 88 dB(A) for 4 hours, or 91 dB(A) for 2 hours.

    An exposure will always dose higher using NIOSH criteria than it will using OSHA criteria, and this gap widens as the sound pressure level moves farther and farther from the baseline of 85 dB(A). The difference between the doubling rates used by OSHA and NIOSH is of some contention, and so doses for both are reported here.

    In all tables below, exposures that do not exceed a 100% OSHA or NIOSH dose are colored green, exposures that exceed a 100% NIOSH dose but not a 100% OSHA dose are colored orange, and exposures that exceed both a 100% OSHA and NIOSH dose are colored red. Estimated exposure times, not measured for the full duration of the exposure due to time constraints, are listed in parentheses. Sound pressure level is abbreviated Lp. "CT" indicates the use of a click track, an amplified digital metronome played through speakers to keep tempo.

    RIVERSIDE HIGH SCHOOL INDOOR REHEARSAL, WITHOUT DRUMLINE
    Lp, dB(A) Location Principal Sources of Exposure Exposure  OSHA  NIOSH
        from other instruments Time, min. dose dose
    90 pit none 60 12% 35%
    91 trumpets low brass, CT 60 14% 49%
    94 flutes (warmups and tuning) entire band 60 21% 98%
    95 drum major entire band, CT 60 25% 123%
    95 flutes entire band, CT 60 25% 126%
    96 pit CT 60 28% 148%


    RIVERSIDE HIGH SCHOOL INDOOR REHEARSAL, WITH DRUMLINE
    Lp, dB(A) Location Principal Sources of Exposure Exposure  OSHA  NIOSH
        from other instruments Time, min. dose dose
    96 bass drums marching percussion 30 15% 87%
    97 tenors marching percussion 30 15% 89%
    100 flugelhorn bass drums 30 26% 209%
    101 sousaphones marching percussion 30 27% 224%
    102 between snare drums and bass drums marching percussion 30 31% 283%


    DUKE UNIVERSITY INDOOR REHEARSAL, WITH DRUMLINE
    Lp, dB(A) Location Principal Sources of Exposure Exposure  OSHA  NIOSH
        from other instruments Time, min. dose dose
    98 drum major (warmups and tuning) entire band 12 8% 56%
    99 between clarinets and alto saxophones brass (75) 53% 379%
    99 tenor saxophones marching percussion (75) 58% 435%
    100 flutes mellophones, trumpets (75) 59% 456%
    100 drum major entire band 86 74% 603%
    104 alto saxophones trumpets (75) 103% 1149%
    104 between snare drums and bass drums marching percussion (75) 110% 1289%
    105 snare drums marching percussion 62 107% 1401%
    106 cymbals marching percussion (75) 144% 2000%
    108 trumpets marching percussion (75) 184% 3031%


    DUKE UNIVERSITY INDOOR REHEARSAL, DRUMLINE ONLY
    Lp, dB(A) Location Exposure  OSHA  NIOSH
        Time, min. dose dose
    100 observer/instructor position (center of drumline) 30 24% 188%


    RIVERSIDE HIGH SCHOOL OUTDOOR REHEARSAL, DRUMLINE ONLY
    Lp (dBA) Location Exposure OSHA NIOSH
        Time, min. dose dose
    94 behind bass drums (35) 12% 53%
    96 snare drums (35) 17% 93%
    99 between snare drums and bass drums (35) 25% 181%
    103 bass drums (35) 44% 467%
    105 tenors (35) 56% 691%


    RIVERSIDE HIGH SCHOOL OUTDOOR REHEARSAL, WITH DRUMLINE
    Lp, dB(A) Location Principal Sources of Exposure Exposure  OSHA  NIOSH
        from other instruments Time, min. dose dose
    85 clarinets (backfield) none (120) 12% 24%
    86 drum major (show run-through) entire band, CT (120) 15% 32%
    86 trumpet entire band, CT (120) 15% 32%
    87 pit trumpets, CT (120) 16% 36%
    87 trombone baritone, sousaphones (120) 17% 42%
    89 tenors (much discussion, less playing) marching percussion, CT (120) 20% 56%
    89 alto saxophone (show run-through) low brass, CT (120) 21% 57%
    89 clarinets / alto saxophones mellophones, trombones (120) 21% 60%
    89 piccolo marching percussion, CT (120) 23% 68%
    90 piccolo marching percussion, CT (120) 23% 71%
    92 baritone (show run-through) low brass, CT (120) 34% 135%
    94 piccolo marching percussion, CT (120) 44% 205%
    94 flugelhorn (show run-through) low brass, alto saxophones (120) 46% 219%
    95 mellophones low brass, CT (120) 47% 224%
    95 snare drums marching percussion, CT (120) 48% 235%
    95 bass drums marching percussion, CT (120) 49% 241%
    95 pit (percussion solo) marching percussion (120) 52% 270%
    96 sousaphone sousaphone, trombones, CT (120) 57% 310%
    99 tenors (show run-through) marching percussion, trumpets (120) 82% 579%
    100 pit brass (120) 101% 819%
    106 snare drum (show run-through) marching percussion, brass (120) 223% 3055%


    DUKE UNIVERSITY OUTDOOR PERFORMANCE (football game)
    Lp, dB(A) Location Principal Sources of Exposure Exposure  OSHA  NIOSH
        from other instruments Time, min. dose dose
    99 tenor saxophones trumpets (150) 103% 724%
    101 mellophones trumpets (150) 148% 1320%
    103 bass drums marching percussion (150) 200% 2194%
    104 drum majors marching percussion (150) 203% 2245%


    DUKE UNIVERSITY INDOOR PERFORMANCE (basketball game)
    Lp, dB(A) Location Principal Sources of Exposure Exposure  OSHA  NIOSH
        from other instruments Time, min. dose dose
    97 drum major (women’s game) entire band (240) 130% 782%
    100 trombones clarinets, flutes (240) 187% 1425%
    101 sousaphone sousaphones, trumpets (240) 217% 1838%
    101 between bells and drumset bass drum, cymbals (240) 233% 2063%
    101 drum major entire band (240) 236% 2111%
    101 between flutes and clarinets alto sax., trumpets, mellophones (240) 239% 2161%
    103 alto saxophones trumpets (240) 283% 2851%
    103 drum major (vs. rival school) entire band 240 295% 3055%


    Below all measurements are plotted and compared to the 100% dose curves for the OSHA and NIOSH criteria. It is clear that, although some marching band exposures can be safe, often they exceed 100% dosage and represent a risk of hearing loss. Student musicians and music educators should be aware of these potentially dangerous sound pressure levels and should take steps to counter them with hearing protection.


    More information on this topic can be found here.


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