A study of the risk of noise induced hearing loss among urban music club employees was conducted. Sound levels were measured in eight New York City music clubs that played live music. The measurements were made between 9PM and 2AM during the times the bands were playing using a calibrated TK-3 portable dosimeter. Ambient sound levels were also measured when the bands were not playing. Thirty one employees at the clubs including 24 bartenders, four waiters or waitresses, and three sound or lighting technicians completed a questionnaire to report information on previous nightclub employment, typical daily and weekly work hours, use of hearing protectors, and perceived hearing problems. The overall average sound levels at the clubs varied from 91.9 to 99.8 decibels-A (dBA), all of which exceeded the OSHA standard of 90dBA. The average sound levels when the bands were performing ranged from 94.9 to 106.7dBA; the average ambient sound levels ranged from 83.7 to 91.1dBA. Some peak sound levels exceeded 115dBA, OSHA's maximum allowable exposure limit without hearing protection. Employees who worked in the louder clubs were significantly more likely to report tinnitus and perceive a hearing deficit after work than those who worked in less noisy clubs. Recently hired employees perceived more hearing loss than employees of longer duration; 55% of the subjects felt that they could not hear as well in general since they had started work at a night club. Only 16% reported using hearing protection on a regular basis. Hearing difficulty was not associated with club sound levels, duration of employment, or use of hearing protection. The authors conclude that employees of music clubs are at significant risk of developing noise induced hearing loss as a result of chronic overexposure to noise. Hearing conservation programs need to be developed for music club employees.
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