The Effect of Wearing Foam and Etymotic Earplugs on Classical Musicians’ Pitch Perception

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Rebecca B. MacLeod, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of wearing earplugs on classical musicians’ pitch perception across three experimental conditions: no earplugs, foam earplugs, and Etymotic earplugs. Participants were graduate and undergraduate music majors attending a large school of music in the southeastern United States (N = 72). Participants adjusted the pitch of five complex stimulus tones (C#4, C#5, C#3, G#4, and F#3) using a continuous response digital interface until they believed the interval was in tune with an oboe (C#4) reference tone. Participants tended to tune flat when the stimulus tone was presented flat and to tune sharp when it was presented sharp across all three earplug conditions. Overall cent deviation in tuning responses showed that in both directional and absolute deviation analyses, listeners were most accurate when tuning without earplugs, then when using Etymotic earplugs, and least accurate with foam earplugs. Significant differences, however, were limited to specific intervals and in magnitudes not likely to be perceived. Although more research is needed, the use of Etymotic earplugs may provide valuable protection against noise-induced hearing loss with negligible effects on pitch perception. Implications for musicians and recommendations for future research are discussed.

Additional Information

Journal of Research in Music Education
Language: English
Date: 2021
pitch perception, hearing loss, earplugs

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