The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Aches and ills from bagpipes

The sound of bagpipes has always been a distinctive and somewhat acquired taste.

But acoustic experts have claimed that, as well as inducing earache, the instrument could be linked to hearing loss, repetitive strain injury and alcoholism.

A survey has also found that having a passion for the pipes can contribute to the breakdown of players’ marriages.

Once used as an instrument of war, the bagpipes are dangerous and should come with a health warning, says the report by Piper & Drummer magazine. It has issued health and safety guidelines warning pipers to wear earplugs and telling them not to stand too close when practising.

James Bousquet, a bagpiper and acoustics expert, measured the noise from a single instrument and found that it reached 122 decibels — louder than a chainsaw or a plane landing.

“Regular annual hearing tests are a good idea. Sounds don’t have to be uncomfortably loud to be damaging.

“It has also been shown that, during exercise, susceptibility to hearing damage increases. This is significant to pipers because our instrument is strenuous to play to begin with and is often played while marching.”

About 10 per cent of players said their hobby had ended their marriages while 84 per cent knew pipers who were alcoholics. Mike McNeill, a former World Pipe Band Championship contestant, said: “Piping can take over your life. Your social life tends to revolve around hard drinking with other members. It can really take its toll.”

Dr Robert Sataloff, an American lung disease expert, said pipers often developed large stomachs because the bag acted as a breeding ground for spores.

“Pipers are more likely to have an hour-glass belly in which they develop distended stomachs filled with the air from playing the instrument.”

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