Intraocular pressure fluctuations in professional brass and woodwind musicians during common playing conditions

  • Gunnar SchmidtmannEmail author
  • Susanne Jahnke
  • Egbert J. Seidel
  • Wolfgang Sickenberger
  • Hans-Jürgen Grein



We investigated the effects on intraocular pressure (IOP) and blood pressure (BP) of playing brass and woodwind instruments by monitoring IOP and BP in a representative group of professional musicians under a variety of common playing conditions.


IOP and BP measurements were recorded from 37 brass and 15 woodwind instrument players, before and after playing tones of low, middle and high frequency. We also measured IOP and BP before and during playing common exercises of 10 minutes duration, as well as after playing a sustained high-pitched tone, to test for changes in IOP under conditions of maximum effort.


Playing tones on brass and woodwind instruments causes a temporary elevation in IOP and BP, depending on the tone frequency: brass instrument players showed a significant elevation after playing high and middle frequency tones (p < 0.0001) whereas woodwind instrument players showed a significant increase only for high frequencies (e.g., oboe, 17 ± 2.9 mm Hg to 21 ± 4.4 mm Hg; p = 0.017). Playing a typical exercise of 10 minutes temporarily increased IOP in both groups of musicians. Finally, playing a sustained tone of high pitch caused a significant elevation in IOP in brass instrument players only (16.6 ± 3.5 mm Hg to 23.3 ± 8.9 mm Hg; p < 0.0001).


The temporary and sometimes dramatic elevations and fluctuations in IOP observed in this study, coupled with daily exposure to instrument play, puts professional wind instrument players at increased risk of developing glaucoma. Consequently, these musicians should be monitored for signs of glaucoma, especially those with co-existing risk factors.


Intraocular pressure Wind instruments Glaucoma Musicians Blood pressure 



We would like to thank Graeme Kennedy for helpful comments on the manuscript. Results of this paper were partly presented at the International Congress on Music Physiology and Musician Medicine 2009 (Freiburg, Germany).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gunnar Schmidtmann
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Susanne Jahnke
    • 3
  • Egbert J. Seidel
    • 4
  • Wolfgang Sickenberger
    • 3
  • Hans-Jürgen Grein
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Vision SciencesGlasgow Caledonian UniversityGlasgowScotland
  2. 2.Course of OptometryUniversity of Applied Sciences Luebeck/Fielmann AkademiePlönGermany
  3. 3.Optometry and Vision ScienceUniversity of Applied SciencesJenaGermany
  4. 4.Department of Physical und Rehabilitation Medicine, The Liszt School of Music WeimarInstitute of Musician’s Medicine and Music PhysiologyWeimarGermany

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