Innovation of the Arts
Performance and Health
Peter Landgren (horn), Robert Mayerovitch (piano) and
Julian Ross (violin) perform a Brahms work
BW is breaking new ground toward extending the careers of musicians and other performers with research conducted by the Center for Performing Arts Health and Research (CPAHR).
Because musicians do not wear ear coverings to protect their hearing, frequently they are exposed to more than 120 decibels of sound during prolonged loud musical passages when performing with an orchestra.
The concern of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) prompted the formation of CPAHR, a collaborative project led by June Romeo, chair of the division of Health and Physical Education, Peter Landgren, director of the Conservatory, and Dr. D. Marty Raymond, a professor in the School of Nursing at Eastern Michigan University who specializes in dosimetry and shares Romeo's interest in this research on NIHL in musicians.
Armed with a grant from the Cohen Foundation, CPAHR has worked with a Virginia engineering firm to develop a dosimeter that will have applications not only for musicians, but for other industries as well, Romeo said. The dosimeter is a specialized sound-level meter intended to measure the noise exposure of a person over time. This equipment is small enough to fit over the ear and will log noise at one-second intervals and three-decibel increments.
June Romeo attaches a dosimeter to
a headband worn by Peter Landgren
During a recent test, Landgren (horn) and Conservatory professors Robert Mayerovitch (piano) and Julian Ross (violin) gathered in Ross' studio along with Romeo and Raymond. Wearing headbands with small microphones attached, the trio performed a Brahms work while the dosimeter measured the level of sound. At one point, Landgren's dosimeter measured 120 decibels, which approximates the noise level of a jet plane landing a quarter of a mile away. While the high decibel level is not constant, in a musician's four-to-seven-plus hours of playing each day, the cumulative effect might be damaging.
Hopefully, the results of the research here at BW will add some conclusive data to the questions surrounding performance-related sound exposure.
"We are getting 150 prototypes," Romeo said. "We will pilot with our BW orchestra performing the Brahms Symphony No. 2 in D major. Every performer will be measuring the same sound that goes into the ear."
CPAHR recently presented a paper on its latest research at the annual meeting of the International Performing Arts Medicine Association. In addition to this presentation, the trio are invited to present their work at the annual conference of the American Public Health Association (APHA) in November, a conference which draws more than 11,000 participants each year. Professor Landgren also will present a lecture this fall, "Measuring Sound Level Impact for Classical Musicians," at the first annual Cleveland Music and Medicine Symposium co-sponsored by Case Western Reserve University Medical School and University Hospitals.
The research conducted at BW will expand to larger orchestras. Test results could have implications for workmen's compensation in music, as well as other industries, Romeo added.
"This is a hot topic in the field," Landgren said, who spent nearly 30 years performing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. "Hearing loss is an issue that musicians are raising to orchestra management, and I think our research will help to quantify the problem. I want to start publishing what we do here at BW in occupational therapy journals and grow interest in this field to help students, the College and the field itself," Romeo said.
Based on an article written by Helen Rathburn '66 that appeared in Fall 2009 Synergies.