The BBC has published a report warning the musicians in its five
orchestras that they are at risk from damaging their hearing. The
report, written by the BBC's safety manager, includes a number
of recommendations for players who want to protect themselves
against noise while rehearsing or performing.
Using earplugs and sitting further apart are two of the suggestions. Players are also told to consider chewing gum to avoid a clenched jaw, which can exacerbate symptoms of tinnitus, although the report concedes that chewing gum 'may not be appropriate on stage'.
Violinists and violists are specifically told that they need to be protected from the piccolo and the brass, and cellists and bassists also need protection if they sit too close to the trumpets.
The report also looks beyond hearing damage to other risks associated with playing in an orchestra, such as higher stress levels. 'The sound of your colleagues' instruments may well contribute to increased stress levels,' it says, adding that 'the adrenaline rush you thrive on in performance can turn under certain circumstances to unhealthy stress that is associated with raised blood pressure, compromised immunity and changes to metabolism'.
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