Can singers damage their own hearing with their voices?

Due to my recent, sudden partial hearing loss, I started wondering about the performing arts. I’m aware of hearing loss among musicians in the orchestra pit, but I was wondering if opera singers, or other really powerful singers can actually damage their own hearing with the power of their voices.

Anyone know?

With their own voices, probably not. With on-stage amps and speakers, or with headphones in the recoding studio, definitely.

I don’t have an answer, but I assume you mean un-amplified, right? (I think we can safely assume if they sing into a microphone and have the monitors on 11 right next to their head, there’s going to be some issues).
Even then I think a lot of it is going to have to do with acoustics. Their ears are going to take a lot more strain singing in a echo-y room then it will in a recording studio or outside in a field.

Quick googling puts the loudest un-amplified human voice at around 129 dB, which is around the level of a jackhammer and definitely loud enough to cause hearing damage over time.

Over time, yes, but in a short sitting, probably nothing more than a temporary dulling. I could be wrong though, as acoustics ain’t my bag.

Too bad Ethel Merman’s not around anymore to ask.

A singer is supposed to project their voice away from themselves. If someone has to sing at the “jackhammer” volume level, I’d assume the venue had very poor acoustics, and thus very poor inherent amplification. Thus the singer would likely not hear themselves as nearly as loud as someone standing in front of them.

I’m not saying it is impossible–just pointing out the inherent safeguards against the idea.

As a First Soprano in high school/college, I was involved with several different choirs. Granted, we were ensembles and not soloists…but I did walk away from at least 2 recitals with severe ringing in my ears that went away after a day or so. I assume it was not from the other sopranos around me, since they were also facing forward, instead of singing right at me…I’ve also rung my own bell singing in the car and the shower. Perhaps not fair to use those examples, as they are confined spaces…I always attributed the ringing to not only the volume, but the vibration involved in singing at a higher register as well. Maybe I just have bad ears…

Sorry to have missed the thread, but I got an expert opinion from an otolaryngoloist here at the hospital where I’m getting treatment for my hearing loss. I asked him,

“Can an opera singer suffer from noise induced hearing loss from exposure to heir own voices?”

He actually thought it was a really interesting question and seemed a bit enthusiastic about it. Mulling it over, he said in theory yes, it’s possible, but he’s never seen or heard of any case.

As noted upthread, the human voice is certainly capable of reaching decibel levels that are high enough to cause noise induced hearing loss. He said the most common example would be when people get a temporary threshold shift after attending sporting events where the fans around them were yelling and cheering loudly. He also knows of other cases, but they all involve one person yelling into another’s ear.

An audiologist piped up with an additional factoid: your entire head only offers about 7 dB of protection as a sound cushion. For example, if you fired a gun next to my left ear, my left ear would be subject to the full 140 dB of the gunshot, but shielded by my head, my right ear on the other side might get away with bearing the brunt of 133 dB.

So they speculated that an opera singer who was loud enough, long enough, and regularly enough could suffer some hearing loss from his/her own voice. But again, they’re practice has never come across even a reference of such a thing. Members of the orchestra? Hell, yes! They’re practice sees them all the time, but no opera singers coming in for hearing tests.

The good doctor thinks my question is a great concept for a pilot study to find out if a) do oper singer suffer from noise induced hearing loss, and if so b) did the hearing loss occuer from their own voices, the co-stars’ voices, or the noise levels of the entire opera production.