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In July 2023 the NOMC & NOMAF SAVE NOLA SOUNDS (SNS) team was honored to be invited to participate in a panel at the Hearing Loss Association of America Conference (HLAA). Thanks to what we learned, SAVE NOLA SOUNDS+25 has joined forces with The World Health Organization (WHO) initiative to prevent the next pandemic: deafness!

1.1 billion young people worldwide are at risk of noise induced hearing loss. – The World Health Organization (WHO)

On the clinical side our New Orleans Musicians Clinic medical team has been providing comprehensive care and social services to thousands of local musicians, performers, and culture bearers since 1998. The sad reality is that many of our patients are warriors on an acoustic battlefield. Hearing impairment and tinnitus results in everything from communication difficulties and social isolation to depression, anxiety and even panic attacks and suicidal ideation.

Our New Orleans’ musicians strive to create music their fans the world over crave to hear; but the process of doing what they love can steal their ability to hear the music they produce. At the same time, they value their hearing more than any other of their senses; as an occupation, professional musicians are also at some of the highest risk for noise induced hearing loss.

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Currently 15%+ of Americans 18 years and over report some difficulty hearing. – National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

Beginning in 2013, our NOMC & AF volunteers gave out hundreds of foam ear plugs at music festivals and in clubs.

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HIGH NOISE AREA

hearing protection
Hearing Protection Must Be Worn

The Acoustic Landscape

When we think back to the heady heydays of “drugs, sex n rock in roll” many folks tend to dismiss the consequences of the hedonist abandon. It has been reported that 60% of rockers in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame have suffered from varying degrees of noise-induced hearing impairment. Perhaps, we think, the ill effects of noise induced hearing disorders is mainly prevalent in the ranks of iconic trail blazers who are in the geezer generation: from Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper to Mick Fleetwood and Sting.

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NOMAF President, Bethany Bultman, a panelist at HLAA.
Photo credit: Kathy Richard

Save NOLA Sounds:

Playing by the numbers

Currently 15%+ of Americans 18 years and over report some difficulty hearing. – National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

How loud is too loud?

Government reseach suggest the safe exposure limit is 85 decibels for eight hours a day. Your hearing could be at risk of damage if you are continually exposed to high volume sounds.

Here are some common decibel levels:

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superdome

Sound systems in many arenas and stadiums can hit 140 decibels. That’s louder than a jet engine. (Think a Saint’s game at the dome.)

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Our sound pain threshold is 125 decibels. The baseline rock concert averages 115 decibels, 10 decibels below the screech of an ambulance siren.

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The “safe” exposure time before damage occurs at 115 decibels is 3 minutes.

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Moderate sound levels (approx. between 40 – 60 decibels) get the creative juices flowing.

Save NOLA Sounds:

What it takes to win

We invite the community to become ambassadors for healthy sound environments with the goal of making New Orleans the nations’ number one acoustic friendly city. Through collaboration with international researchers, we strive to create a healthy local music environment for musicians and music lovers alike.

  • Serve as a trusted resource for peer-reviewed academic research and information to prevent noise induced hearing disorders, as well as guidelines for safe levels of sound exposure.
  • Champion and support self-efficacy for musicians, DJs, sound engineers, music educators, and the gospel community based on best safe sound practices from the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA).
  • Provide strategies for scientifically approved, occupational hearing loss prevention and protection methods for New Orleans’ music community from rehearsal to performance environments.

Musicians with hearing impairments

beethoven
george
brian
paul
dave

DAVE GROHL

Speaking up about hearing loss

In 2022, David Eric Grohl (born 1969) of Nirvana (1990-1994) and Foo Fighters founder fame admitted to Howard Stern* that he’s had hearing damage for years. “I’ve been reading lips for 20 years” Grohl confessed to Stern. “If you were sitting next to me, right here at dinner,” he admitted, pointing to his left ear, “I wouldn’t understand a word you were saying. In a crowded restaurant, that’s the worst.” During the pandemic, wearing masks further isolated Grohl and countless others with hearing deficits.

*The Howard Stern Show (Alert: there is a plethora of salty language in this Grohl interview.)
Photo source: Wikipedia – Creative Commons 2.0 / FoosDublin210819-2 / by Raphael Pour-Hashemi

How to Preserve Your Hearing

STEP ONE:

Protect your ears

It may seem counterintuitive to wear hearing protection while rehearsing. Custom-fitted earplugs are specifically designed for musicians to filter out the dangerous sounds while preserving the range of sound that you want to hear.

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STEP TWO:

Limiting the time of exposure to high decibels

Take regular hearing breaks from rehearsals or mixing sessions.

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STEP THREE:

Set up a hearing test

Periodic checkups can help catch problems before permanent damage is done.

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TINNITUS: the musicians’ torment

What’s Tinnitus?

Pronounced (ti-nuh-tuhs), from the Latin word “tinnire” to ring. It’s a persistent buzz, click, hiss, swoosh, whistle or ring locked in your head that no one else can hear. Ninety-nine percent of tinnitus cases are of the subjective variety, traceable to auditory and neurological reactions to loud noise and hearing loss. More than 25 million Americans experience some level of tinnitus. While 5 million people in the USA struggle with burdensome chronic tinnitus; 2 million folks find it debilitating.

– The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

Musicians Speaking Out About Tinnitus

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Musician Agents of Change

Don’t say you didn’t know

Grimes
bono
anthony kiedis
kathy peck
Plan B
Louis Tomlinson
Barbra Streisand at Health Matters Conference
Tank,Arrives,At,The,Bet,Presents:,2017,Soul,Train,Awards

SNS Program Team Leaders

We are committed to the SNS mission to make New Orleans the nation’s safe acoustic oasis. Passionate about the ecosystem around artists and public health, SNS is in great hands under the leadership of our team.

taylor cohen

NOMAF Director of Public Health for the Public Good

John Hutchings

SNS+25 Medical Director

SNS Resources

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Hearing Safety Poster

Save NOLA Sounds
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Hearing Safety Brochure

Save NOLA Sounds
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H.E.A.R. (Hearing and Education for Rockers)

hearnet.com
TrendsInHearing

Observations From a Musician With Hearing Loss

National Libraries of Medicine Article
PacificStandard

New Data Finds High Rate of Hearing Loss Among Musicians

Pacific Standard
HLAA

Hearing Loss Association of America

hearingloss.org