Hearing Loss & The Irony Of The Entertainment Business

“Goodbye yellow brick road,” Elton John belted out the title song of his final concert tour. My family rarely attends concerts — given my hearing loss I worry about damaging it further — but we are big Elton John fans and could not bear to miss our last chance to see him perform live. The sold out show in Madison Square Garden was outstanding with the crowd singing along to its favorite oldies but goodies. My family and I were able to enjoy the performance because we came prepared with hearing protection and the knowledge of how to use it. You can read my tips for attending a concert in my article, “How To Enjoy a Concert Safely When You Have Hearing Loss.”

As we made our way to our seats, the irony dawned on me. We were not allowed to smoke, to bring in outside food or drink, or even use caps on our plastic water bottles (I guess they think people will throw them?!?), but we could blast our ears with 110 decibel sound for 3 hours without any rules stating otherwise. There was not even a posted sign suggesting we protect our hearing with earplugs or ear muffs. Something seemed wrong with that.

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Back To School Time For Hearing Health

Several years ago, I joined my then first grade son in his classroom for Family Time, a monthly event where students could highlight something special about their family to the class. Most families brought in unique foods or led the children in cultural activities related to their ethnicity or country of origin, but we did something different. We brought in earplugs and talked to the class about taking care of their hearing. This was special for our family because of my hearing loss. You can read more specifics of our class visit here.

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Why My Family Walks For Hearing

The weather turns cools, the leaves begin to change and school begins. It is Fall in New York City and that means it is time for another Walk4Hearing. This will be my fourth year walking and volunteering. Each year it is a wonderful day of community, camaraderie and support for hearing health. It is also an important fundraiser for Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA).

To find or support a walk near you, click here.

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Using Earplugs Can Be Cool!

I am pleased to share an excerpt from my most recent article for Healthy Hearing

I remember the battles with my teenage son. He was heading to a loud dance party but was worried about wearing earplugs. He knows better than most of his peers how difficult hearing loss can be and how important it is to protect the hearing that he has, because I have hearing loss. Even so, he resisted wearing them. “My friends won’t be wearing them,” he complained, “They won’t get it. It’s just not cool to wear earplugs.” Despite his complaining, he chose to wear the earplugs and off he went to the loud party.

Like he imagined, he got lots of questions about his earplugs from his friends who were not used to seeing things in his ears. He showed them how loud the music was playing using a decibel reader app on his phone and explained that he wanted to protect his hearing.

What he didn’t expect was that his friends would want to wear them too! The music was so loud it was painful. Luckily he had brought some extra pairs so he could share them with his friends. Wearing earplugs had turned out to be cool after all!

While this story has a happy ending, the perception that wearing earplugs is not cool is a big problem, especially in today’s noisy world.

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How can we make wearing earplugs cool?

1. Encourage influential role models to speak out.

More musicians are wearing earplugs and touting the benefits of wearing them publicly. This includes alternative rock musicians like Chris Martin of Coldplay and classic rock icons like Eric Clapton. At a recent Adele concert, she went out of her way to compliment the children in the audience who were wearing earmuffs for hearing protection. This type of positive feedback from people with influence will help lower stigma and build awareness.

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Hearing Loss — The Forgotten Problem

This week I share a school project written by my son. The assignment was to write about a cause that is important to you and then deliver a speech about it to the class. He is in 7th grade. While not every detail is perfect in his talk, his experience growing up with a mom who has hearing loss shines through in bright detail. I am so proud of his efforts to raise awareness about hearing loss and love his suggestions for how his peers can help. 

I share his speech below, lightly edited.

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