The School of Music, as required by the National Association of Schools of Music, is obligated to inform students and faculty of health and safety issues, hazards, and procedures inherent in practice, performance, teaching, and listening both in general and as applicable to their specific specializations. This includes but is not limited to information regarding hearing, vocal and musculoskeletal health, injury prevention, and the use, proper handling, and operation of potentially dangerous materials, equipment, and technology.
The School of Music has developed policies, protocols, and operational procedures to guard against injury and illness in the study and practice of music, as well as to raise the awareness among our students and faculty of the connections between musicians' health, the suitability and safety of equipment and technology, and the acoustic and other health-related conditions in the University's practice, rehearsal, and performance facilities.
It is important to note that health and safety depends largely on personal decisions made by informed individuals. Northern Illinois University has health and safety responsibilities, but fulfillment of these responsibilities cannot and will not ensure any individual's health and safety. Too many factors beyond the university's control are involved.
Each individual is personally responsible for avoiding risk and preventing injuries to themselves before, during, and after study or employment in the Northern Illinois University School of Music. The policies, protocols, and operational procedures developed by the School of Music do not alter or cancel any individual's personal responsibility, or in any way shift personal responsibility for the results of any individual's personal decisions or actions in any instance or over time to the University.
Anyone who practices, rehearses or performs instrumental or vocal music has the potential to suffer injury related to that activity. Instrumental musicians are at risk for repetitive motion injuries. Sizable percentages of them develop physical problems related to playing their instruments; and if they are also computer users, their risks are compounded. Instrumental injuries often include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and bursitis. Incorrect posture, non-ergonomic technique, excessive force, overuse, stress, and insufficient rest contribute to chronic injuries that can cause great pain, disability, and the end of careers.
The School of Music wishes to thank the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and the Canadian Network for Health in the Arts for the following information:
The School of Music wishes to thank The Singer's Resource, the Texas Voice Center, Houston, and the University of Michigan Vocal Health Center for the following information:
Conable, Barbara. What Every Musicians Needs to Know About the Body (GIA Publications, 2000)
Horvath, Janet. Playing (Less) Hurt www.playinglesshurt.com
Klickstein, Gerald. The Musician's Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness (Oxford, 2009)
Norris, Richard N. The Musician's Survival Manual (International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, 1993)
Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), the world's leading authority on musical assessment, actively supporting and encouraging music learning for all.
Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA), an organization comprised of dedicated medical professionals, artists educators, and administrators with the common goal of improving the health care of the performing artist.
Texas Voice Center, founded in 1989 for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of voice disorders.
National Center for Voice and Speech (NCVS), conducts research, educates vocologists, and disseminates information about voice and speech.
Vocal Health Center, University of Michigan Health System, recognized locally, regionally and nationally as a leading institution for the treatment and prevention of voice disorders. At the heart of the Center is a professional team comprised of experts from the University of Michigan Health System and U-M School of Music, encompassing the fields of Laryngology, Speech Pathology, and Vocal Arts.
The School of Music maintains a collection of musical instruments for checkout and use by members of the music faculty and students enrolled in our courses and performing ensembles. As with other items we use in the course of our daily lives, musical instruments must be cared for properly and cleaned regularly. Each instrument in the School's collection receives a thorough inspection at the conclusion of the academic year. Every year, thousands of dollars are spent to clean, adjust, and return instruments to full playing condition.
More and more our society is pushing for products that are anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Some even go the next step further aiming to achieve sterile. However, our bodies by design are not meant to live in a sterile environment. As kids we played in the dirt, ate bugs and countless other things and became stronger because of it. Keep in mind that total sterility is a fleeting moment. Once a sterile instrument has been handled or exposed to room air it is no longer considered to be sterile. It will however remain antiseptically clean until used.
Most viruses cannot live on hard surfaces for a prolonged period of time. Some die simply with exposure to air. However, certain groups are quite hardy. Therefore, musicians must be concerned with instrument hygiene. Users of school owned and rented musical equipment might be more susceptible to infections from instruments that are not cleaned and maintained properly.
If the cleaning process is thorough, however, musical instruments will be antiseptically clean. Just as with the utensils you eat with, soap and water can clean off anything harmful. Antibacterial soaps will kill certain germs but all soaps will carry away the germs that stick to dirt and oils while they clean. No germs/ no threat.
Sharing musical instruments is a widespread, accepted practice in the profession. However, recent discussion in the profession has included concern regarding shared musical instruments and infectious disease, especially HIV.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has confirmed that there is no risk of transmission of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), or Hepatitis B (HBV) through shared musical instruments. The reasons for this are that these diseases are passed via a blood-to-blood, sexual fluid or mucous membrane contact. There has been no case of saliva transmission of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), or Hepatitis B (HBV).
While the possibility of transmission of the above bacteria and viruses is not a real consideration, it is apparent that there should be a protocol with regard to shared musical instruments. Sharing of instruments is routine in music schools, where students practice and perform on borrowed instruments throughout the year. In our discussion with our consultants, certain basic considerations and recommendations for standard operating procedures regarding shared instruments were recommended as follows:
The mouthpiece (flute headjoint), English Horn and bassoon bocal, and saxophone neck crook) are essential parts of wind instruments. As the only parts of these instruments placed either in or close to the musician's mouth, research has concluded that these parts (and reeds) harbor the greatest quantities of bacteria.
Adhering to the following procedures will ensure that these instrumental parts will remain antiseptically clean for the healthy and safe use of our students and faculty.
String, percussion, and keyboard instruments present few hygienic issues that cannot be solved simply by the musician washing their hands before and after use.
Note: The information in this document (.PDF) is generic and advisory in nature. It is not a substitute for professional, medical judgments. It should not be used as a basis for medical treatment. If you are concerned about your hearing or think you may have suffered hearing loss, consult a licensed medical professional.
Part of the role of any professional is to remain in the best condition to practice the profession. As an aspiring musician, this involves safeguarding your hearing health. Whatever your plans after graduation - whether they involve playing, teaching, engineering, or simply enjoying music - you owe it to yourself and your fellow musicians to do all you can to protect your hearing. If you are serious about pursuing a career in music, you need to protect your hearing. The way you hear music, the way you recognize and differentiate pitch, the way you play music; all are directly connected to your hearing.
In the scientific world, all types of sound, including music, are regularly categorized as noise. A sound that it too loud, or too loud for too long, is dangerous to hearing health, no matter what kind of sound it is or whether we call it noise, music, or something else. Music itself is not the issue. Loudness and its duration are the issues. Music plays an important part in hearing health, but hearing health is far larger than music.
We experience sound in our environment, such as the sounds from television and radio, household appliances, and traffic. Normally, we hear these sounds at safe levels that do not affect our hearing. However, when we are exposed to harmful noise-sounds that are too loud or loud sounds that last a long time-sensitive structures in our inner ear can be damaged, causing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). These sensitive structures, called hair cells, are small sensory cells that convert sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back. NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense "impulse" sound, such as an explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time. The humming of a refrigerator is 45 decibels, normal conversation is approximately 60 decibels, and the noise from heavy city traffic can reach 85 decibels. Sources of noise that can cause NIHL include motorcycles, firecrackers, and small firearms, all emitting sounds from 120 to 150 decibels. Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the time period before NIHL can occur. Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss. Although being aware of decibel levels is an important factor in protecting one's hearing, distance from the source of the sound and duration of exposure to the sound are equally important. A good rule of thumb is to avoid noises that are "too loud" and "too close" or that last "too long."
According to the American Academy of Audiology, approximately 26 million Americans have hearing loss. One in three developed their hearing loss as a result of exposure to noise. As you pursue your day-to-day activities, both in the School of Music and in other educational, vocational, and recreational environments, remember:
National Association of School of Music (NASM) www.nasm.arts-accredit.org
Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) www.artsmed.org/index.html
PAMA Bibliography (search tool) www.artsmed.org/bibliography.html
Acoustical Society of America www.acousticalsociety.org
Acoustics for Performance, Rehearsal, and Practice Facilities Available through the NASM Web site
Health and Safety Standards Organizations American National Standards Institute (ANSI) www.ansi.org
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) www.cdc.gov/niosh
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) www.osha.gov
Medical Organizations Focused on Hearing Health American Academy of Audiology www.audiology.org/Pages/default.aspx
American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery www.entnet.org/index.cfm
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) www.asha.org
Athletes and the Arts www.athletesandthearts.com
House Research Institute - Hearing Health www.hei.org/education/health/health.htm
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders - Noise-Induced Hearing Loss www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/noise.html
Other Organizations Focused on Hearing Health Dangerous Decibels www.dangerousdecibels.org
National Hearing Conservation Association www.hearingconservation.org