Get Loopy at the Loop Utah Conference May 2 – 3

We love it when amazing people come to town, especially when those amazing people talk about something near and dear to our hearts. In honor of Better Speech and Hearing Month in May, Loop Utah and the local Utah Chapter of the HLAA have invited Dr. Juliette Sterkens as a special guest speaker.

Dr. Sterkens, a National Loop America advocate and an audiologist, will discuss the importance of the installation of hearing loops throughout the United States. She will also touch upon the subjects of advocacy and compliance for those with hearing loss.

Listen Technologies is very excited about this event as it supports Hearing Loop awareness, legislative compliance, and, in May each year, Better Speech and Hearing Month. Better Speech and Hearing Month is dedicated to raising more awareness about communication disorders. This year, the focus is on identifying the signs of communication disorders.

Get loopy with Loop Utah and support this event, which consists of two sessions. The first session on May 2 is for industry professionals, such as audiologists, architects, and facility managers, while the second session on May 3 is for the general public. If you’re interested in attending, please view the specific information below.


May 2, 2014 (for audiologists, architects, and facility managers)

9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

May 3, 2014 (for the general public)

9:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.


Sanderson Community Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

5709 S. 1500 West

Taylorsville, Utah

All conference rooms are looped.

Common Misconceptions about Hearing Loss (Part Two)

Last month I posted the first part of a piece devoted to dispelling some myths about hearing loss. As a continuation of this series, I’d like to discuss more of the common misconceptions associated with hearing loss; however this post will focus on the subject matter from a different perspective. In this post, I hope to go over some of the beliefs we all have associated with developing a hearing loss and why it’s important to treat it, rather than simply ignore it.

The sounds we hear every day are part of what make us who we are {click to tweet}, whether those sounds are our favorite songs on the radio, a pet purring on our lap, birds singing in our garden, or our loved ones whispering that they love us. When we lose the ability to distinguish these sounds completely, it can be frightening and hard to admit.
Although there are certain instances in which someone can lose their hearing very suddenly, it’s usually a gradual change. In other words, hearing loss develops gradually over time, so gradually, in fact, that it can be hard to notice. Some of the symptoms of hearing loss include:
·         Difficulty telling the difference between high-pitched sounds like “th” and “s”
·         Having a harder time hearing women’s voices than men’s voices
·         Needing to turn up the TV or radio
·         Difficulty following conversations when more than two people are talking
·         Often asking people to speak more clearly or louder
·         Avoiding certain social situations, because you find them frustrating
Due to the gradual way that hearing loss develops, people tend to ignore it or don’t want to admit that they have it. They simply say, “I can still hear most things, so clearly I’m just fine,” or “I’d know if I had hearing loss, because my doctor would have told me. “ But this isn’t the case.
Hearing loss isn’t an all or nothing issue. Just because you can still hear some things, doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have hearing loss. If you have experienced any of the symptoms above, you may want to have your hearing tested. If your hearing is fine, it can’t hurt, right? And if you do find that you are developing hearing loss, there are things that can be done to help treat it.
There are lots and lots (and lots) of excuses when it comes to not wanting to admit you have hearing loss and getting it treated. One of the biggest myths is that living with hearing loss isn’t that hard. Depending on how severe your hearing loss is, it can affect many different aspects of your life.
Let’s say, for example, that one of the aspects of your job is going to meetings frequently. If you start developing a hearing loss, you’re going to have to work harder to hear in these meetings. It’s going to take more effort to stay focused, because you can’t quite hear everything. You may have to ask people to repeat themselves or talk louder. If your hearing loss goes untreated, you may even run the risk of not being able to hear what’s happening in these meetings at all, which would lead to poor job performance. This is clearly not good.
Maybe you don’t have to go to meetings all day long at work, so that example isn’t that meaningful to you. Let’s consider something else. What if at the end of the day one of your favorite family activities has always been to watch TV together? Perhaps your kids are all out of the house, but you and your spouse still love to cuddle up and watch a good sitcom or one of those awesome, period drama pieces on PBS. The popcorn is popped. The lighting is dimmed. But the volume is so loud that your spouse can’t stand to stay cuddled next to you. This leaves you alone on the sofa. This is clearly not fun.
These examples aren’t meant to frighten or cause any upset, they’re merely meant to illustrate the fact that living with hearing loss isn’t easy. If your hearing loss is treated, you can improve your life. There’s no reason to stubbornly ignore it. You’re not doing yourself (or your loved ones) any favors.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again and again, I do not have a hearing loss. I do, however, know people who have hearing loss and the longer I have the opportunity to work and write for Listen, the more people I have the opportunity to meet more and more people who are affected by hearing loss. These people, whether they have hearing loss or whether they advocate for loved ones who have hearing loss, inspire me to learn more every day; they inspire me to be an advocate, as well. And it is with that in mind that I continue to try to break down some of the stigmas that are associated with hearing loss. Even if one person’s mind is changed by reading this post, then it has been worth it. If you feel you are developing a hearing loss, I urge you to get your hearing checked. It’s a simple step you can take to improving your life.

One Loop at a Time

When I first started at Listen Technologies I was told I would have certain kinds of moments. Moments that weren’t about marketing a product, per se, rather, they’d be moments that would show me that there are bigger reasons that we do what we do; moments that would reinforce why I decided to work for this company in the first place, because it helps people have better life experiences. I had several of these moments last Saturday as we helped kick off the Loop Utah Movement at the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Festival. Here are a few of them.

Gaining More Understanding


I am not a person with hearing loss and I have recently entered into a world of trying to understand what it must be like for people who do have a hearing loss. I won’t lie; it’s been a challenge for me to understand. I’ve stumbled over jargon and made silly mistakes along the way. It’s been a bit tricky for me to navigate through the ADA requirements. It’s been even harder for me to fully understand the human aspects of how frustrating it must be to have to go to a public space and not be able to fully participate. This began to change on Saturday.
As I arrived at the Sanderson Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for the festival on Saturday the atmosphere was strange from my perspective. Things appeared to be quite lively. There were lots of people outside smiling. There were snow cones, and fries, and games. There were lots of different vendors at booths, but things were quiet as I walked across the lawn. I didn’t understand what was going on. How could it be so quiet? It looked like people were having a great time. It suddenly dawned on me that the reason for the relative quiet was because people were signing to each other. Silly me! Here I was, already making assumptions about something I knew very little about—I have so much to learn.
At first the silence made me feel shy and awkward; I don’t know any sign language, so I felt incredibly out of place, but then I decided to use the situation as a learning experience. This was one of my moments, a moment that opened me up to learning what it feels like to not be able to fully participate in something. Personally, I feel it was very important for me to have this moment of clarity. I was humbled in a very good way. If I hadn’t been open to the human aspects of feeling vulnerable right then and there, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to grow and experience the things I did later that day.

An Extra Bag of M&M’s


As a writer, I tend to be far better in textual communication than in verbal communication. I tend to get a little tongue-tied when approached by strangers, especially in crowded environments, which is why I was in absolute awe of my co-workers when they talked with people who visited our Listen Technologies booth at the festival.
Watching and learning from Cory Schaeffer, Tim Schaeffer, Kristin Rector, Carrie Keele, Mike Griffitt, and the Steering Committee Chair, Dr. Anne Lobdell was invaluable to me. They were incredible, whether they were demonstrating our small Hearing Loop, getting people to join the Loop Utah Movement, or merely talking to people about hearing loss prevention. It was great to have the opportunity to watch and learn from all of them. It also gave me the courage to have a few interactions of my own, one of which was quite memorable.
As all of my Listen comrades had wandered off to ready themselves for presentations or visit other booths, I was left alone to mind our table. Obviously, I was a little anxious. A few people stopped by and I shyly talked about Loop Utah. People politely took our informational kits and I even got one of them to sign up for Loop Utah e-mails. But the most incredible moment I had during this time on my own was with a small, similarly shy, twelve-year-old girl. Her name was Sara.
Sara approached our Listen table quietly. I smiled at her and she shyly smiled back. Feeling a little awkward I asked her if she had a hearing loss. She shook her head and looked down at some of the informational things we had on our table. I then asked her if she knew someone who had someone with hearing loss. Her facial expression as she looked up at me was something I’ll never forget. It was a mixture of sadness, loss, pain, and a little hopefulness; something that said, “Yes, and I love this person, but don’t know what to do, because I’m just a kid.”
It turned out that the person she knew was her grandfather and he was very important to her. She had no idea what kind of hearing aid he had (whether it was equipped with a t-coil or not) all she knew was that he didn’t like wearing it and that he didn’t like going places with her as much anymore. When I asked if her grandfather was with her to see if I could talk with him too, she admitted she was alone. Sara had come to this festival on her own to help find some answers for her grandfather to help make his life better. This simultaneously broke and filled my heart! What an amazing kid! My awkwardness and shyness wore away quickly. I knew I had to do something to comfort her or at least try to help her.
I asked Sara about some of the things she liked to do with her grandfather. Apparently, they both love going to the movies. Both of them also love mixing M&M’s in with their popcorn (we had a supply of M&M’s at the Listen table and yes, I gave her an extra bag). Instead of launching into a big speech about Hearing Loops, I simply told Sara about some of the different things she could do to help her grandfather. I gave her a stack of Calling Cards she could hand out to movie theaters she visited. And then together we sat down and quickly wrote a letter to the movie theater she and her grandfather visited the most asking them to install a Hearing Loop, so she and her grandfather could keep going to the movies together. She promised me she’d send the letter. I promised myself never to forget how I felt as I helped her. It was indeed one of my moments.

Not Just Numbers


I am someone who finds a great deal of value in being able to go out an experience cultural events, whether that is watching a contemporary version of some Shakespearean play, seeing an opera, or listening to an art historian talk about a Chagall painting on a tour at a museum. Granted, these things might not be everyone’s proverbial cup of tea, but no matter what one enjoys doing (sports, church, lectures, poetry readings, whatever) one should have the right to enjoy it fully. Watching drama unfold on a stage, hearing the notes of a talented soprano, learning about brushstrokes from an educated scholar, so that you know more about a work of art are important things to me personally. I don’t know that they’re important to everyone, but I fully believe that we all have instances and things we enjoy that cultivate who we are as human beings. Maybe it’s a rock concert for you. Maybe it’s cheering at a basket ball game. Whatever it is, I fully believe that these things make us more human; they make us better humans. There are those among us who are currently not participating in what they love doing, simply because they do not have access to assistive listening devices or equipment.

Hearing Loops allow people with hearing loss who have smart hearing aids (hearing aids with telecoils) and cochlear implants go out and experience things they love in public spaces and venues. The benefits of Hearing Loops are easy to understand: they’re more hygienic and they offer a personalized sound experience that’s delivered from the source of the loop straight to a users hearing device. They are also compliant with the ADA.

I’m told that the current percentages of people with hearing loss in the United States fall somewhere between 17% and 20%. When I think about these numbers, I find it staggering. Not because of the ones and sevens or the percentages, but because of the human faces behind these numbers who are limited in experiencing things they may have used to loved to do, much like Sara’s grandfather.

When we quote numbers like this, we must remember who they represent. They represent our loved ones, our friends, and ourselves. When you really think about it—I mean really, really think about it—these percentages are much bigger than just 17% or 20%, because when you know someone with hearing loss, you become part of that number, too. What I mean to say is that Sara’s grandfather isn’t alone, he has Sara. Sure, they’re just two people, but imagine what would happen if everyone was as brave as Sara. If we all pool our collective resources and advocate for changes together as people who don’t necessarily have hearing loss, but as people who are concerned about it, we can make huge differences.
At some point in your life, you’re going to know someone who has a hearing loss. It could be your grandfather. It could be your mom, your dad, your favorite sibling. It could be your child. It could be you. When you think of the faces of these people you love, can you honestly say that they deserve to experience less in life? If you could make things better for them, wouldn’t you?

Although I’ve only listed a few, the moments I experienced on Saturday made me more aware of the importance of the Loop Utah Movement.

I do not personally have a hearing loss, but I am increasingly passionate about creating meaningful cultural experiences for others. I fully believe that this makes us all better as people. Looping venues in the State of Utah has become important to me. Not because I work for Listen, but because I believe in making people’s lives better. I sincerely hope that you too will consider joining this movement. Together we can make a difference, One Loop at a Time.

Listen Technologies Visits the Sanderson Center for Hard of Hearing Assistant Training

Eliminating communication barriers at the Sanderson Center

It was a great pleasure of ours to visit the Robert G. Sanderson Community Center in Salt Lake City, Utah to participate in a Hard of Hearing Assistants Training Session. The Sanderson Center is dedicated to eliminating communication barriers in order to create a refuge for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals. It’s a place where Deaf and Hard of Hearing people can come and meet, socialize, and participate in all kinds of activities. Its 32,000 square feet contains a large lounge with a big-screen television, a pool table, a gymnasium, a kitchen, three classrooms, a lecture hall, a bookstore, and interpreter lab, and two beautiful courtyards. It also houses the offices for the Division of Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Along with creating a wonderful place for the Hard of Hearing community to gather and socialize, the Sanderson Center also hosts training seminars like the one in which we participated  for Hard of Hearing Assistants.

Hard of Hearing Assistants make a world of difference

Hard of Hearing Assistants are trained in order to help those who are living and coping with Hearing Loss. For many, coping with this is a new thing and having a Hard of Hearing Specialist to help them makes a world a difference. These specialists do so much. They work with families who are adjusting to hearing loss. They assist with problems that may arise at work or school. They provide case management services; give information about resources and support groups, and offer education and assistance with listening assistive technology, among many other things. Hard of Hearing Assistants also provide individuals important information about rights and responsibilities related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which can be incredibly beneficial for someone who is unaware of their legal rights.

It takes a great deal of effort to become a Hard of Hearing Assistant. The Assistants in Training we met  at the Sanderson Center were all incredibly passionate people visiting from all over the state of Utah to train on such topics as: Living with Hearing Loss, Grief and Hearing Loss, Body Language, Family Communication, Assistive Listening Device Training, and others. Many of these Assistants have loved ones who are affected by hearing loss or have hearing loss themselves and it is incredible to see how dedicated they are to making improvements in their community. 

Sharing ideas and technology

Kristin Rector, our Director of Marketing, delivered a presentation to the Hard of Hearing Assistants in Training at the Sanderson Center on the General Guidelines of the ADA. Many of the Assistants in Training, who were made up of a varied group of passionate women from all over the state of Utah, were unaware of all of the requirements of the ADA. As most of these women personally have loved ones who are Hard of Hearing or Deaf, they were thrilled to learn of these requirements, because they quickly recognized how it would benefit the people they love, as well as themselves.

Once the ADA Requirements were gone over, a presentation was given about Hearing Loop. Many of the Assistants in Training were excited about this technology, especially when the benefits of future applications were discussed. There were all kinds of ideas flying through the room: Why couldn’t they put a Hearing Loop in a car, or a drive-thru window? Why couldn’t they put one in every airport in the country? Every courtroom? Every restaurant? The ideas just kept coming and coming. It was fantastic.

Kristin also discussed an upcoming event that Listen Technologies is very excited about, the kick-off of Loop Utah, which begins in September! This movement not only brings awareness to Hearing Loop, but it also vastly benefits the lives of the Hard of Hearing community, their loved ones, and any venue that installs the technology. We are thrilled to be part of this continued effort and cannot wait to participate even more in the future. 

Understanding Hearing

Who knew that being sick could help you relate to your end user?
You see, germs have invaded my house. Everyone (except for the cat) has been battling various forms of sickness. I had a viral infection which turned into a double ear infection (with a perforated ear drum), double pink eye, strep throat and sinusitis. Thank goodness for modern medicine and an understanding employer who allowed me the time of to recover.
I’m feeling much better, but I am left living in a “bubble”. While I’m not contagious anymore (don’t worry co-workers!) I still have fluid in my middle ear which causes everything to be very muffled. When someone is talking to me, it’s like my ears are under water. I can hear bits and pieces, but not the crisp details.
Even as I sit here at my desk, I’m amazed at how quiet things are. Normally I can hear the buzz of conversations all around me. One look shows me that things are still hopping; it’s just that I can’t hear it as I normally do.
Here are some of the things I notice:
  • I am more introverted as I need to strain to hear what is going on around me – I feel disconnected with my surroundings
  • I worry that I will miss something that is said to me and offend that person
  • I catch about 1/2 of what is being said and try to piece it together (helps if I can look at the lips)
  • One on one conversations are much easier to follow than group conversations
Hearing loss is an invisible handicap as it’s usually difficult to tell by looking at someone that they have a hearing loss. Many times people don’t have patience to deal with those who have hearing loss or worse they assume the person with hearing loss is a little “slow”.    

Better Hearing Institute
reports that studies have linked untreated hearing loss to:
  • irritability, negativism and anger
  • fatigue, tension, stress and depression
  • avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
  • social rejection and loneliness; reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
  • impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks
  • reduced job performance and earning power; diminished psychological and overall health.
Here at Listen Technologies, we offer several lines of products designed to help people that have hearing loss. I realize now more than ever just what an impact these products can make in the life of a person living with hearing loss. Here’s what Chelle George had to say about her first experience with a hearing loop, Before the actual workshop started, a lady reminded us to turn on our T-coil because the rooms are looped.  I did and WOW!!!  I never experienced it before this and I was totally amazed at the clarity of sound coming through my hearing aids at the push of the button.”

How would things be if we each walked a day in their shoes? In fact, that’s just what Ken Wood, CEO/President of Upstate Hearing has his employees do. All staff members are required to complete a hearing loss exercise as part of an orientation to their new positions, which entails wearing a customized set of earplugs while continuing normal daily activities. He said, “Hearing loss is very difficult to understand, Wood said. Most people kind of understand blindness, or being with limited use of a leg from having a cast etc. but unless you have experienced hearing loss or lived with someone with hearing loss it is hard to understand the frustrations and energy required to communicate easily.”

Luckily I know that my hearing will return, but I appreciate the perspective that I now have.

Protecting Teens From Hearing Loss

This was originally posted on February 21, 2012 on the InfoComm All Voices Blog >>>

For the first time in nearly 25 years, teens have experienced a 30% increase in hearing loss. The culprit: noise-induced hearing loss. Recent studies show that 1 in 5 teens now have noise-induced hearing problems. Although reported by many, I believe there is still much work to be done to build awareness about this important issue. I personally find it concerning because hearing is so critical to our interactions with others, and it’s all too easy to take our hearing for granted.

 “Blindness separates us from things, but deafness separates us from people.”  Helen Keller
I grew up listening to Foreigner, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Def Leppard, and others at high volumes in my bedroom, barely hearing my mother’s voice as she yelled for me to “Turn that ‘ya ya’ down.” I was also very proud to redo the stereo system in my 1964 Volkswagen Bug — I put eight speakers in that little car! Nothing seemed more important than playing my music so loudly that I couldn’t hear anything else. And I know my friends were impressed when I pulled up and they could hear me before they saw me.
Many of us have shared similar experiences; after all loud music is a rite of passage for teenagers. Our industry is rich with individuals who once played in a band — and in many cases still do. Being a member of a band is cool, and it’s a passion for many in our industry. We understand the joy and emotional connection that music brings to us, and often we believe that the louder the better. Remember the saying that if it’s too loud, you’re too old? If you’re working in the audio industry, chances are that you or some of your colleagues are already dealing with hearing loss.
In some ways, hearing loss in a seasoned AV professional seems understandable. But such a significant rise in teen hearing loss is alarming. The fact that it’s noise induced — and therefore preventable — makes it tragic.
We have an opportunity and a responsibility to communicate that it’s not cool to lose your hearing. The fact is that once you’re hearing is gone, it’s gone forever. There is no fix for hearing loss. Let me state it again: Once it’s gone it’s gone!
Imagine what this means. Hearing loss changes our ability to fully enjoy experiences, and it impacts our lives in so many ways. It’s more difficult to understand a conversation or appreciate music. Hearing loss doesn’t just affect an individual, but also one’s family and friends. It affects our ability to connect with people. It can separate us, isolate us. Some people get ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, which often becomes permanent. All of this can cause anxiety and irritably.
Noise-induced hearing loss is a permanent hearing impairment resulting from prolonged exposure to high levels of noise. Everywhere I look, I see people wearing ear buds and headphones, and often the volume is such that I can hear some of what the person is listening to. But here’s what else is happening with those headphones and ear buds:
  • You have your earphones on and you’relistening to your favorite music at high volume.
  • The sound waves enter the ear, travel thru the ear canal all the way to the hair cells located in your inner ear.
  • Hair cells help convert sound energy into electrical signals sent to the brain. This allows you to hear the music clearly.
  • But when the volume is too loud, those hair cells get damaged  — nd never grow back
For more information about noise-induced hearing loss, visit the House Research Institute,  a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with hearing loss and related disorders.
The fact of th ematter is, noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. Even a small loss of hearing can have a lifetime of consequences fora child. Here are a few tips for noise-induced hearing loss prevention:
  • Talk about it and educate your kids
  • Monitor sounds in excess of 85 dB
  • Remove headphones and ear buds often and take 15-minute breaks
  • Move away from on-stage monitors or amplifiers while listening or performing
  • Use hearing protection often — and not just at concerts
Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable, but more education on thetopic is necessary. We need more dialogue about how to prevent this type of hearing loss and it needs to come from this community.

Walk4Hearing Kicks Off AV Week

October 14 officially kicks off InfoComm AV Week2012. InfoComm members in Utah got a jump start and began celebrating AV Week in September this year.

AV Week proclamations were secured from Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, and Bluffdale City Mayor Derk Timothy.
For the third year in a row Listen Technologies picked the Hearing Loss Association of America and its Walk4Hearing as a charity to support as part of AV Week. The Listen Trek Team raised over $2,500 through combined efforts of reaching out to family and friends asking for donations and sponsorship dollars. These efforts helped the Salt Lake City Walk4Hearing raise over $18,000.
Walk4Hearing participants also were able to experience either a Hearing Loop or RF assistive listening solution for the audio portion of the Walk4Hearing.
The foreboding rain withheld and a festive and inspiring atmosphere took over the day’s activities Over 300 people came out to Sugarhouse Park on Saturday, October 13 to support those with hearing loss and help raise funds to bring awareness to this invisible yet rampant situation. 17% or 36 million people in the United States alone experience some degree of hearing loss. With this kind of prevalence the reality is that we all know or will soon know someone with hearing loss.
There is a lot more to come this week. Here are just a handful of samples of what members of InfoComm will be doing to celebrate AV Week.

is hosting two AV Week events this year:

The Power of AV Education
– designed exclusively for the audiovisual technology professional working in education, training and learning environment. This event will examine future trends in learning and technology’s role.

– Forty area high school TV production students will receive education on career paths in the industry and will train and compete in various AV themed activities. Local InfoComm members will form teams and compete in the first ever AVlympics for a chance to win a trip to InfoComm 2013 in Orlando and compete again.

CMA Digital
is hosting an open house showcasing their office with large digital signage displays and software solutions.
Columbus State Community College will host a display and presentation.

Draper, Inc.
will host an event at their headquarters for local technical high school students. Students will tour the facility and discover career opportunities in the audio visual industry.
Kramer Electronics is participating in AV Week by hosting two training and educational sessions at their New Jersey office.

Listen Technologies
will be hosting a behind-the-scenes tour of the LDS Conference Center. Additionally, Listen employees will compete in AV Week Jeopardy to test their AV knowledge.
Net-AV will speak at several local community colleges and technical council events to educate and promote the AV industry.

Projector Lamp Services
is holding a Relampit Recycling Raffle once again. Participants are encouraged to recycle used projector lamps and will have a chance to win a new projector.

Rp Visual Solutions
will teach a class to the film, TV and IT departments at Santa Ana College in Santa Ana, California.

Westminster College
will celebrate for the fourth consecutive year with a multitude of events.
We hope that wherever you might be this week you’ll find a way to celebrate the AV industry.

Why I Wear Earplugs

Band tour manager Forrest Reda shares his experience with House Research Institute for their feature SoundRules and www.EarBud.org on why he wears earplugs.
earplugsI’m a tour manager for the band Dr. Dog and I wear high fidelity earplugs because I love music, and I want to enjoy listening to it for the rest of my life.
The music industry is filled with artists and crew members who have blown out their ears by being around loud music too long. Unfortunately, most people don’t wear earplugs, but they aren’t very effective when you need to be able to hear nuances in live music, and they also tend to fall out of your ears, so they are often abandoned. When we are on tour, we arrive at the venue hours before the show.

We load-in the instruments and gear and the band sets up and sound checks their equipment so that our audio engineer can adjust the sound system and make the show sound as good as possible. The theater is usually empty, except for me, the band and the rest of the crew and stagehands. While the band is rehearsing, our sound engineer needs to have the volume turned up as loud as it will be later in the evening when the venue is packed with bodies that naturally dampen the volume coming from the stage.

dr-dog bandThis means that sound check is loud. When I am wearing my earplugs, I can listen to the band and make sure they are getting the sounds they want, while protecting my hearing from excessive volume, which can spike as high as 110 decibels. During the show I wear them too, in case I have to get onstage to trouble shoot a problem or otherwise get close to the speakers.

My earplugs allow me to still hear people speaking to me, and I can hear the music, especially the guitars, with a clarity that I can’t hear without the plugs. The muddy low-end is filtered away, and I can hear the mid and high frequencies, with the right amount of bass. Once I started wearing my custom molded, high fidelity earplugs, my concert experience improved dramatically. 

Hearing Aids May Help Decrease Brain Atrophy in Older Adults

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania shows that declines in hearing ability may accelerate gray matter atrophy in auditory areas of the brain and increase the listening effort necessary for older adults to successfully comprehend speech. However, a hearing aid may help decrease the atrophy, as well as help hearing ability.
When a sense (taste, smell, sight, hearing, touch) is altered, the brain reorganizes and adjusts. In the case of poor hearers, the researchers found that the gray matter density of the auditory areas was lower in people with decreased hearing ability, suggesting a link between hearing ability and brain volume.
Lead author Jonathan Peelle, PhD, research associate in the Department of Neurology, explained in the press release, “As hearing ability declines with age, interventions such as hearing aids should be considered, not only to improve hearing, but [also] to preserve the brain.” He added, “People hear differently, and those with even moderate hearing loss may have to work harder to understand complex sentences.”
In a pair of studies, researchers measured the relationship of hearing acuity to the brain, first measuring the brain’s response to increasingly complex sentences and then measuring cortical brain volume in the auditory cortex. Older adults (60-77 years of age) with normal hearing for their age were evaluated to determine whether normal variations in hearing ability impacted the structure or function of the network of areas in the brain supporting speech comprehension.
The studies found that people with hearing loss showed less brain activity on functional MRI scans when listening to complex sentences. Poorer hearers also had less gray matter in the auditory cortex, suggesting that areas of the brain related to auditory processing may show accelerated atrophy when hearing ability declines.
In general, research suggests that hearing sensitivity has cascading consequences for the neural processes supporting both perception and cognition. Although the research was conducted in older adults, the findings also have implications for younger adults, including those concerned about listening to music at loud volumes.

“Your hearing ability directly affects how the brain processes sounds, including speech,” says Peelle. “Preserving your hearing doesn’t only protect your ears, but also helps your brain perform at its best.”

The research appears in the August 31, 2011, edition of The Journal of Neuroscience and was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Physicians should monitor hearing in patients as they age, noting that individuals who still fall within normal hearing ability may have increasing complaints of speech comprehension issues. Patients should talk to their physician or an audiologist if they are experiencing any difficulty hearing or understanding speech.

New Ear Buds Protect Your Delicate Ears With Balloons

The popularity of ear bud headphones has exploded in recent years, in part because of the better sound they are said to deliver, their easy compatibility with hats and hairstyles, and in no small part from their association with a certain iconic portable music player. But while functional, and some claim comfortable, ear buds don’t really play nice with the structure of our ears. In fact, they may be hurting us.
The issue comes from the stapedius reflex, where the middle ear undergoes an involuntary muscle contraction in the presence of loud noises to protect the delicate inner ear. This responses happens all the time, particularly while talking or humming, which is why you have may have been told to hum right before a loud noise to protect your ears. Because in-ear headphones create a closed space, transferring the sound into a concussive force against the ear drum and middle ear, the stapedius reflex kicks in making the music sound quieter, and often results in users turning up the volume even higher to compensate. The middle ear attempts to compensate further, leading to fatigue on the muscles, leathery calluses on the ear drum, and eventually actual hearing damage from the high volume.
Until recently, the only way to prevent this was switching back to over-the-head headphones or listening at low volumes. But Stephen Ambrose who created of in-ear monitors, the professional grade progenitors of ear buds, thinks he’s found a way to deliver high-quality sound without deafening listeners. TheAmbrose Diaphonic Ear Lens (ADEL) uses air-filled balloons around tiny speakers to act as a barrier between you and sound. The sound vibrates the membrane of the balloon, transferring the sound to the wall of the ear canal and through the bones of the inner ear.
With the balloon ear buds, or alternatively, tiny membrane inserts for traditional ear buds, listeners can use less volume but experience more sound. Moreover, Ambrose’s research shows that the membranes greatly reduce the force applied to the ear, preventing fatigue and hopefully guarding against hearing damage. The balloon buds are still in the prototyping phase, but consumer grade versions should be in the pipe soon. For music lovers everywhere, this should sound like good news.
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