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Earplugs, In School? Students In Richardson Experiment With Hearing Loss


Teachers telling students to listen up at Winfree Academy Charter Schools might have to shout tomorrow. Two dozen students at the school are participating in an experiment to illustrate the dangers of hearing loss in teens due to loud sound exposure without hearing protection. For one full day, these high school students will re-create what it is like to experience hearing loss. 

Hearing loss among teens in the U.S. has risen to record levels. 1 in 5 adolescents now suffers some sort of hearing impairment, according to The Journal of American Medical Association. That’s a 31% increase in hearing loss among U.S. adolescents between the late 80s and early 2000’s. And according to the National Institutes of Health, one-third of those cases can be blamed partly on our environment, and to the combination of ear buds and loud music.

To show teens across the country what living with permanent hearing loss would be like, ClearSounds Communications, a Chicago-based company, is sponsoring the ClearSoundsTeen Hearing Challenge in cities from New York to Los Angeles. But first up is Richardson, Texas.

Twenty students at Winfree Academy Charter School will wear foam earplugs Tuesday, April 30th, from the time they wake up in the morning through their school day, until they go to sleep that night. They will then participate in a school assembly the following day -- without the ear plugs -- to share their experiences.  Michele Ahlman, president of ClearSounds Communications will also host a multi-media presentation that will teach students about hearing loss and prevention. 

Here are symptoms that could indicate hearing loss from

  • Loss of hearing sensitivity, first to high-pitched (high-frequency) sounds, then eventually to lower pitches
  • Difficulty hearing conversation, especially when other people are talking or there is significant background noise
  • Temporary or permanent ringing in the ears
  • A sense of fullness in the ears 
  • Voices and other noises sound muffled and/or distorted
Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.