It's happened to the best of us- that ringing sensation after a particularly booming show. Brushed off as just par for the course, this symptom is actually something that could develop into something quite serious. How ironic would it be that your first love-live music-turned out to be the one thing that prevented you from enjoying it. Thankfully, there's people who have done something about the predicament. Meet We're hEAR for You, a non-profit based out of Athens, GA "whose mission is to increase the awareness of noise-induced hearing loss, hearing loss prevention, and the use of earplugs among the music community." We talked to one-half of the founders Katie Carmody, for this week's Q&A.
BANG! We’re hEAR for You’s aim is a noble one. How did it all start?
W.H.F.Y. We’re hEAR For You was founded in Athens, GA in 2009 by myself, Katie Carmody, marketing director at Georgia Theatre and my best friend, Speech-Language Pathologist, Caroline DeCelles. We are both huge live music fans and realized the need of education about hearing safety and access to hearing protection to concert-goers. While in graduate school, an illness almost ruptured one of Caroline’s eardrums, leaving her particularly sensitive to loud noise. While attending a concert a few days later, she attempted to purchase a pair of earplugs at a local music venue, but they had none. For Caroline, it was like an epiphany. She was studying speech and hearing and knew the importance of protecting her hearing from noise exposure. It was this experience that inspired We’re hEAR For You’s inception. With Caroline’s knowledge of speech and hearing science and my career and connections in the music business we were able to start things up rather easily.
We aim to:
Educate -- Educate concert-goers, musicians, music industry personnel and music fans about the dangers and science behind Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.
Advocate -- Advocate the use of hearing protection at live music. We hope to break the stigma of wearing hearing protection so we can all enjoy the music for a lifetime!
Reduce -- Reduce noise-induced Hearing Loss among the music community through education & providing free earplugs
BANG! Why did We’re hEAR for You decide to go the non-profit route? What about the specific structure of a 501c3 has shaped the organization?
W.H.F.Y. It was always our goal to be a nonprofit- but the initial reaction and momentum we experienced within our first couple years were a sign to us that there really was a place us in the music community. It’s been very much been a “learn as you go” experience, as neither Caroline nor myself have experience in beginning or running a non-profit. We both have other full time jobs, but it’s our passion and dedication to our mission that have guided us, and our supporters who have helped us get to this point.
Being a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization shapes our organization in many ways- how we structure our organization, run our meetings, fundraise and budget for the future.
BANG! What kind of impact is W.H.F.Y. making in the music communities it has entered into?
W.H.F.Y. Since beginning in 2009 we have we have educated hundreds of thousands of concert goers and distributed over 70,000 pairs of free earplugs, over 40,000 of which have been in the past 12 months. It’s so great to look around a concert and see more and more people using earplugs.
In Athens, we partner with UGA’s Speech & Hearing Clinic to provide free hearing screenings. We draw volunteers from UGA’s CMSD & Music Business Programs to act as advocates and educate at events. As we branch out to other cities like Atlanta, Nashville & Denver- we will continue to work with local organizations to fulfil our mission. We have partnered with touring bands and festivals to educate about NiHL & distribute free earplugs. We currently have earplugs and info out on tour with Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Widespread Panic, Phish, Galactic, MOON TAXI, Futurebirds and Snarky Puppy.
BANG! What kind of misconceptions has We’re hEAR for You encountered about hearing loss prevention and safety?
W.H.F.Y. We find that knowledge about Noise Induced Hearing Loss is not widespread in the music community. Many people believe that wearing earplugs will ruin the sound. Many people say, oh it’s too late for me, I already can’t hear!
The truth is earplugs help reduce the sound to a non-damaging level. And if you already do have hearing damage, you can still protect what you still have!
BANG! Has there been a difference in reception between the Athens and Atlanta market?
W.H.F.Y. Both cities have welcomed us warmly. We have had to be strategic in our growth, as not to overextend ourselves and use up our resources too quickly. We’ve been working in Atlanta in a much smaller scale for the past year, and are now ready to expand to more venues, studios and festivals! We feel so welcomed by the Atlanta music community, and are so excited to continue to grow there!
BANG! Is the answer for concerts to lower the noise level or for everyone to wear ear plugs?
W.H.F.Y. Both actually. Some bands and audio engineers think louder is better. If it is possible to turn down the volume- by all means do, especially when using ear buds, head phones, in the car and while watching TV. However, in some live music settings, the sound coming from speakers needs to reach thousands of ears, so it needs to be loud. Or when mixing sound for a live band, certain instruments need to be turned up to be heard over the drum kit etc. The key is to know when you need to use hearing protection. An acoustic bluegrass show, you’ll be fine. A Bassnectar show? YES, PLEASE WEAR EARPLUGS!!!
Sound is measured in decibels. “A normal conversation between two people is about 60 decibels. Concerts are regularly in the 95-120 decibel range. Exposure to noise above 85 decibels for more than 6 or 7 minutes results in Noise Induced Hearing Loss” (NIHL). Noise Induced Hearing Loss is 100% Permanent and 100% Preventable
BANG! Are there any live shows of a particular genre where the audiences could use the ear plugs more than others? Basically, who’s the loudest?
W.H.F.Y. Concerts are consistently getting larger and louder. As a whole, Bass heavy EDM concerts & heavy metal shows tend to be the loudest, but it is all about the decibel levels. There are some great decibel meter apps out there to help you determine if you should wear hearing protection. Always wear earplugs when exposed to sound above 85dbs.
BANG! What is in the future for We’re hEAR for You?
W.H.F.Y. We are working to steadily grow to work in new cities, be present at new events and to work with more touring bands. In 2014 we are expanding our efforts in Atlanta and are developing chapters in Nashville & Denver. Eventually we plan for this to be a national, perhaps international organization.
Keep an eye out for us this festival season!
BANG! When all is said and done, what would We’re hEAR for You like it’s maximum contribution to be?
W.H.F.Y. Our goal is to educate music fans, musicians, music industry workers etc about the importance of protecting your hearing. So many of us take our hearing for granted- when in reality, as music fans our ears are our #1 asset. It is because of our ability to hear that we all love music. It’s a very sad concept to us to think about someone who loves live music, and goes to tons of concerts, who then eventually loses their hearing due to their love of live sound. Through educating about noise induced hearing loss & prevention methods we hope to break the stigma of using hearing protection so we can all enjoy the music for a lifetime.
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