Pity the French horn player

David Kirkwood
October 1, 2013

By David H. Kirkwood

For reasons that are difficult to fathom, news of a research study showing that French horn players are the classical musicians most likely to suffer from noise-induces hearing loss has gone viral. All over the media, from NPR to Classic FM, from US News & World Report and the Huffington Post to iNOOZ, this news is being covered as if it were likely to change the world as we now know it.

I was going to write about it on this blog, but decided that I could not do so objectively.  That’s because for most of my childhood I played the French horn, or at least tried to.  As a result, I feel great empathy for people who have mastered the instrument and play it professionally. Playing the horn well requires an embouchure of steel and the lung power of a race horse, since the hornist must propel a stream of air through six feet of narrow, winding tubing. Surely, it is terribly unfair that these people who already suffer so much to produce beautiful sounds–sounds that, I am certain, are far softer than those of the trumpet or trombone–should wind up with the most damage to their ears.

Fortunately, my HearingHealthMatters.org colleague Marshall Chasin, who is a musician as well as an audiologist, gives you the facts behind the reports that have been burning up the Internet for the past week. So, please go to his post this week at Hear the Music to get a clearer perspective on this most overblown story.  Also, parents of children with hearing loss will be interested in my colleague Jane Madell’s take on the subject on her blog.

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