Surrounded by sound: The impact of tinnitus on musicians

Georgina Burns-O’connell*, David Stockdale, Oscar Cassidy, Victoria Knowles, Derek J. Hoare

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


AIM: To investigate the impact of tinnitus on professional musicians in the UK. BACK-GROUND: Tinnitus is the experience of sound when an external source is absent, primarily associated with the ageing process, hearing loss, and noise exposure. Amongst populations exposed to industrial noise, noise exposure and noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) have been found to be the factors most associated with tinnitus. The risk of NIHL amongst professional musicians is greater than that amongst the general population, meaning they may be at increased risk of tinnitus. METHODS: Seventy-four professional musicians completed an online survey involving closed and open-ended questions, and completed the Tinnitus fuctional Index (TFI) questionnaire. Descriptive statistics and thematic analysis of open-ended qualitative responses were used to analyse the data. RESULTS: Three themes were generated from the analysis of the responses to the open-ended questions. These themes were: (1) the impact of tinnitus on the lives of professional musicians, (2) professional musician experience of tinnitus services, support, and hearing health and safety, and (3) the support professional musicians want. The mean global TFI score for professional musicians was 39.05, interpreted as tinnitus being a moderate problem. Comparisons with general population data revealed lower TFI scores for the TFI subscales of ‘sense of control’ and ‘intrusiveness’ for professional musicians and higher for auditory difficulties associated with tinnitus amongst professional musicians. CONCLU-SION: Tinnitus can negatively impact on professional musicians’ lives. There is a need for bespoke self-help groups, awareness raising, and education to prevent tinnitus and promote hearing health among musicians.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9036
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

Data Access Statement

Data Availability Statement: Data is available on request from the corresponding author.


  • Hearing health
  • Lived experience
  • Musicians
  • Occupational noise exposure
  • Public health
  • Tinnitus


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