|NIDCD’s Phalla Keng (l) and Robert Miranda-Acevedo (r) meet with Kevin Lloyd, Linganore High band director (second from l) and student Justin Fraumeni.
Linganore High School alto saxophonist Justin Fraumeni had never thought about how his participation in the school band could affect his hearing until he read a newspaper article about the risks for noise-induced hearing loss. He decided to do his own research, borrowing a sound level meter and recording the decibel levels in the band room during practice, as well as other areas of the school.
When he was done, he published his results in the school newspaper, The Lance. Fraumeni’s article came to the attention of staff in the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders communications office. They thought it offered an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about noise-induced hearing loss among Fraumeni and his bandmates using messages from the It’s a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing campaign.
The Noisy Planet campaign, which will be 5 years old in October, targets parents and tweens (children ages 8-12) with easy-to-understand messages about noise-induced hearing loss, the only kind of hearing loss that is completely preventable. Science shows that cumulative exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels (roughly, anything louder than the sound of heavy city traffic) can cause damage to the delicate sensory hair cells in the inner ear that allow us to hear. This results in hearing loss later in life.
The Noisy Planet campaign teaches three simple ways to protect your hearing: walk away from the noise, turn it down or wear hearing protectors, such as earplugs or earmuffs. In addition to providing tips and tools on its web site and Facebook page, the campaign offers community outreach with a 45-minute presentation for the classroom. Since 2010, the Noisy Planet team has presented at 88 schools and reached 9,500 parents and tweens.
Noisy Planet teammates Phalla Keng and Robert Miranda-Acevedo contacted Kevin Lloyd, the school band director at Linganore High School, who asked the team to present to all of the band classes at the school—a total of 120 students. Keng and Miranda-Acevedo taught students about how we hear, what too loud means and why it’s so important to protect hearing in noisy situations. They also demonstrated different types of hearing protectors band members could use, including specially designed earplugs for musicians.
When Keng and Miranda-Acevedo finally had the chance to meet Fraumeni, they asked him what he learned from writing his article for The Lance. “It started out as not a big deal to me,” he said. “It was just a classroom project. But then the more I looked into it, the more interested I got in the topic.”
In the fall, Fraumeni will attend the University of Rochester, where he is hoping to major in audio and music engineering. When asked if he would continue to be an advocate for preventing noise-induced hearing loss, he said the most critical thing to have in his major is good ears.
“As long as I’m around loud music,” he added, “I’ll be telling people to turn it down or at least keep it at a safe level, because I think it is the right thing to do.”