Information for musicians: reducing the risk of tinnitus

Being a musician can mean exposing your ears to loud noise. If this happens too often, you run the risk of getting tinnitus. But by taking precautions, you can greatly reduce the risk without having to give up doing what you love.

Know the risk

Your risk of getting tinnitus depends on what type of musician you are, and how long you are exposed to loud noise while playing. But the chances are that you might be at risk.

  • Exposure to any noise of 85 decibels and above is unsafe without ear protection.
  • Live rock bands commonly play at 112 decibels. Listening to music this loud without protection for any longer than a minute can give you permanent ear damage.
  • Symphony orchestras often reach 94 decibels – it’s unsafe to listen to that level of noise for more than an hour.

Know your rights

If you are an employed musician – for example, if you’re in an in-house orchestra or band – your employer has a legal obligation to make sure you aren’t exposed to unsafe levels of noise. If you are regularly exposed to noise at 85 decibels, your boss must give you ear protection. Exposure to noise above 87 decibels, if it isn’t reduced by hearing protection, is illegal. For more information on the law, look up the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.

Wear ear protection

There is no better way to reduce your exposure to loud music than wearing ear protection. Foam earplugs from the high street are cheap, but they’re no good for listening to music, as they muffle all sound. Universal high fidelity earplugs start from £10 and are better at reducing noise from music while keeping its clarity. Custom moulded earplugs and in-ear monitors (high-spec earphones used by musicians and DJs while on stage) work even better. They are dearer, costing £139 or more, but could be a worthwhile investment if you regularly play or make loud music.

For more information on the different types of ear protection, click here.

Other tips

There’s no substitute for good earplugs, but taking additional steps will also help. Staying hydrated helps your hearing, so keep drinking water while you are making music. The more distance you put between yourself and loud noise, the better. So don’t stand near speakers, and whenever possible, take a break from the music to give your ears recovery time. Finally, can you make the music quieter, even by just a fraction? Reducing noise levels by three decibels will double the amount of time you can be exposed to the sound before it becomes unsafe.

For further information:

The BTA Tinnitus Support Team can answer your questions on any tinnitus related topics:

Telephone: 0800 018 0527
Web chat: – click on the icon
Email: [email protected]
Text/SMS: 07537 416841

We also offer a free tinnitus e-learning programme, Take on Tinnitus.

Download your copy of Information for musicians:

Information for musicians

Information for musicians – large print

Leaflet information:

Author: Peter Wheeler

Version 2.0

Issued: September 2019

To be reviewed: September 2022

Page updated 22 March 2022

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

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