Marking October’s National Protect Your Hearing Month, Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) announced that it is releasing the first of a new video series called “A Few Words About Hearing” that captures the stories of nine people—from all walks of life—who describe what it’s like to live with hearing damaged by loud noise. Watch it here:

Related article: Hearing Health Foundation Appoints Timothy Higdon as CEO

Those interviewed include an Afghanistan and Iraq combat veteran, musicians, a producer-turned-relationship counselor, a structural engineer, an entertainment writer, and a graduate student suffering from chronic tinnitus who describes his condition as a constant “teakettle going off.” 

The nine talk about how, when, and why they would’ve taken action sooner—if they had known they could lose their hearing permanently. Almost all the participants suffered hearing loss from noise before they were 30, a fact that underscores recent warnings by health authorities that hearing loss is rising among young people.

Erin Nolan, a mother of two young children whose hearing was damaged working on jet planes while serving in the Navy, says one of the most difficult aspects of tinnitus is when her children are excitedly sharing the day’s events but she can’t process what they’re saying because tinnitus draws away her attention. “I don’t want them to think Mommy doesn’t care, that I’m not listening, but it’s hard to focus on what they are saying because of the ringing in my ears.”

Hearing Health Foundation’s Keep Listening prevention campaign aims to kick off a major culture shift so that everyone will protect their hearing in the same way we routinely protect ourselves from the sun’s rays and secondhand smoke.

We can all avoid hearing loss from noise—and the serious brain, heart, and cognitive problems that can come with it—through simple precautions like carrying and wearing earplugs and turning down the sound on personal listening devices.

The video was shot in Los Angeles in August by multimedia production company PICROW, which produced the Emmy-winning TV series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Modern Love, Transparent, and Goliath. Director Peter Lang has been involved with many films and videos including health-related content for MassMutual, RWJBarnabas Health, and University of Michigan Health.

Lang says: “I was surprised to learn how pervasive noise-induced hearing loss is—that it affects 1 in 4 Americans. I also didn’t know the significant correlation between untreated hearing loss and dementia. People are in denial—until their hearing is damaged, or they get tinnitus, most people don’t want to think about protecting their hearing. I hope these short videos will get through to people and change some attitudes about hearing protection and preserve hearing that might otherwise be lost. That would be a really wonderful outcome.”   

Our very noisy world—from roaring sports stadiums to pounding exercise studio music and noisy bars and restaurants—harms our hearing, as does spending hours on personal audio devices listening at too-high volumes and for way too long at a stretch. 

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“The trend is alarming. Evidence of noise-induced hearing loss is showing up at younger and younger ages,” says Timothy Higdon, President and CEO of HHF. “Few people are aware that loud noise can permanently damage hearing, sometimes in minutes. It’s all the more tragic because hearing loss from excess noise is entirely preventable.”

Others in the video include: 

Jon Barton, now in his 40s and working as a Hollywood movie consultant on combat and war themes, says he’d tell his younger self: “Wear your damn earplugs. You have nothing to lose but your hearing. No one else is going to do it for you.” A retired Marine sergeant, Barton served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and damaged his hearing as a result of combat. 

Daniel Rivera, a structural engineer, describes his emotional turmoil caused by debilitating tinnitus, which he developed after attending an eight-hour concert. Rivera says he now sees that his hearing may have already been impaired because he listened to music on headphones, loudly, in grad school to tune out ambient noises when studying. This may have primed his ears to be further damaged at the concert. 

Mike O’Malley, a graduate student in San Diego, who damaged his hearing as a result of attending loud concerts and music festivals as a teen without hearing protection. He describes his tinnitus as “24/7, like hearing a teakettle going off in the next room.”

Chris Bailey, a drummer originally from London who has played with scores of artists including Britney Spears, Nick Jonas, Chaka Khan, and Boy George. He damaged his hearing from years of hard drumming. He is able to continue in the music industry and protects his hearing from getting worse.

Princess Fortier, a vocalist who has performed with Kanye West, Beck, and Diana Ross, makes sure to protect her hearing and understands that doing so is just as important as protecting her voice. 

Kayleena Pierce-Bohen, a senior writer at an entertainment news site who damaged her hearing working in large nightclubs where earplugs were provided but not always worn. She also avoids flying because of ear pain and has occasional vertigo.

Collins Peters, a music producer turned relationship counselor, damaged his hearing as a teenager, in large part due to using large woofers (bass speakers) in his car. His father told him, “I can hear you coming down the block! You’ll kill your hearing!” Collins didn’t listen, thinking himself invincible. Now, like the others in the video series, he wants to make people aware that hearing loss from noise is a real risk.

Dennis D’Angelo is a guitarist, music producer, and sound engineer originally from Brazil. Along with teaching he plays in five bands and has musician friends with hearing loss. He is very careful to protect his hearing, including carrying around earplugs on his keychain. 

Source: Hearing Health Foundation