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Kids Help Other Kids to Protect Their Hearing from Personal Music Devices

Genna Martin, a college sophomore, was excited to take Jolene out to the streets for the first time. On a special shopping trip to Goodwill Industries, Martin and her sister had treated Jolene to a completely new outfit: stylish sunglasses, a red dress, // and a black hat that nicely complemented her blue hair and bronze face. But the most important part of Jolene was her lifelike rubber ears--connected to an electronic circuit with a Radio Shack sound meter.

When Martin took her electronically equipped mannequin out on the street, curious pedestrians placed the earbuds from their personal music players onto Jolene's ears. The sound meter measured how loud their music was playing. Many were surprised to see that volume levels that had seemed innocuous to them could actually damage their hearing permanently over time.

Genna Martin is part of a new generation of students who are trying to educate and convince their peers to reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), the permanent damage to hearing caused by noise. An estimated 12.5% of all young people between the ages of 6-19 already have some form of NIHL, according to federally funded research, and a group of researchers is now working intensely to raise awareness of this issue.

On October 19 and 20, Martin and other students will join scientists, educators, and other professionals in the Cincinnati area to convene for the first-ever conference on NIHL in children. The organizers see this unprecedented event as the beginning of a nationwide effort to change young people's attitudes and behaviors on protecting their hearing.

Martin created Jolene just a few months ago, during her summer break after freshman year of college at Boston University. She contacted others who had done similar projects, including Dave Brown, an audiologist now based in Cincinnati, who had built a purple-colored electronic head called the Walkometer (see http://www.ucalgary.ca/UofC/'"/>




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