Preliminary observations compiled by the House Ear Institute (HEI) from free hearing screenings at the three largest pro audio industry tradeshows indicate a pattern in the degree of hearing loss experienced by music and audio professionals. These observations were gathered informally in variable conditions, to get an overview of how hearing loss might vary between individuals in different niches within this industry.

The screenings are part of HEI's Sound Partners David program, which raises awareness of permanent hearing loss caused by overexposure to excessive sound levels among audio and music professionals. The program is partially funded by corporate sponsorship.

"The confidential screening tests allow industry professionals a convenient method to determine their hearing thresholds," says Dilys Jones, director of marketing, HEI. "Sound engineers, audio system contractors, music producers and professional musicians are dependent on their ears to hear a wide range of frequencies for their careers, but are also at high risk for noise-induced hearing loss."

HEI has recorded the results of free hearing screenings offered to attendees at the annual Audio Engineering Society (AES) tradeshow since 1997. An average of 15% of those tested were diagnosed by certified Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) technicians as having mild to serious hearing loss.

Since 1998, free hearing screenings have been available to attendees at the annual National System Contractors Association (NSCA) Expo. A hearing deficit was evident in 26% of the participants screened at this event by certified OSHA technicians.

At the International Music Products Association (NAMM) winter 2002 show, an average of 25% of participants in the free hearing screenings showed a hearing deficit.

"Our observations indicate that people who install audio systems or who are constantly subjected to amplified music are more likely to have hearing loss than sound engineers, who appear to be more aware of controlling sound in their environment." Jones explains. "Regardless of their field, music and audio industry professionals need to be constantly alert of the possible dangers to their ears in their everyday work. Once your natural hearing is gone, it can't be replaced."

The House Ear Institute (HEI) is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing hearing science through research and education to improve the quality of life. Established in 1946 by Howard P. House, MD, as the Los Angeles Foundation of Otology, and later renamed for its founder, the House Ear Institute has been engaged in the scientific exploration of the auditory system from the ear canal to the cortex of the brain for more than 55 years.

HEI scientists continue to explore the developing ear and ear diseases at the cell and molecular level and work to improve hearing aids and auditory implants, clinical treatments and intervention methods. For information on the House Ear Institute, call (213) 483-4431 or visit the website at http://www.hei.org.