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Noise Risk and Minimisation

The Elder Conservatorium of Music is committed to providing a safe work and study environment for our staff and students. One of the projects we are currently engaged in focuses on risks to hearing posed by exposure to music-related noise. We have implemented a number of best practice measures aimed at minimising these risks.

In 2012 Ian O'Brien, a Queensland-based professional musician, audiologist, and leading researcher in the area of orchestral noise, came to the Elder Conservatorium and gave a pair of very well-attended educational talks to students and staff. He also took noise measurements at various locations in a number of our larger ensemble rehearsals. The results of these measurements, as well as recommendations for minimising undue exposure to noise in both ensemble and studio settings, are collated in Ian's Report to the Conservatorium (May 2012).

The Elder Conservatorium has now implemented a number of control measures recommended by the O'Brien Report in both its large ensemble and studio music environments:

  • engineering controls (e.g., use of risers and acoustic shields to protect players in high-risk locations within ensembles, use of acoustic wall tiles to help deaden sound in studios)
  • administrative controls (e.g., use of structured respite and lower practice volumes at certain points in rehearsals, keeping within maximum noise levels with the aid of dosimeters in studio environments, increasing awareness of noise and hearing risks through educational campaigns)
  • personal protection (encourage the use of personal ear plugs where other measures are not adequate to keep noise levels within a safe range)

The following engineering and administrative controls are in place for all large ensembles with potential noise-related risk (ECSO, ECWO, Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Big Band, Latin Band):

  • Re-configuration of seating arrangements (as space and musical communication allows) in order to: position instruments at the rear of the ensemble higher (with use of risers) so that their sound travels over the heads of musicians below; and create additional space between rear-positioned and instruments to the front of these sections, so that noise levels reaching the latter musicians are lower than would otherwise be the case
  • Targeted use of wrap-around noise screens at rehearsals, where required. The screens should be trialled in different positions to test for practical and most effective usage.
  • Use of structured respite where feasible.
  • Where practical to do so (i.e. where rehearsal efficiency is not impeded) rehearsal at lower volumes to work on technically challenging aspects.

The following personal protection measures are in place for all students and staff:

  • The Conservatorium makes disposable foam ear plugs available to students and staff free of charge at all times. These are located in the Schulz level 2 office, and the ensemble manager's office in Elder Hall.
  • All students and staff, especially those in more noise-exposed positions within ensembles, are strongly urged to consider purchase of personal hearing protection. These provide protection with minimal disruption to normal sound balance. A number of Adelaide-based audiologists manufacture custom musician's earplugs, including Hear Clear Audiology ( and Adelaide Audiology (

If you have any concerns about noise-related risk at any time, please speak to your ensemble director of manager, or the Music Office staff.

Elder Conservatorium of Music

Faculty of Arts



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F: +61 8 8313 4423

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