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

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As a result of their work, "they certainly have caught the attention of their peers," Vermeulen says.

Annaliisa Koski began her hearing loss prevention work as a senior in high school in Portland, OR. She volunteered to become a research educator for Dangerous Decibels?, a program on hearing loss education at her local science museum. She decided to do an independent study of her schoolmates' knowledge and attitudes about using hearing protection. She got responses from 171 students, nearly all of those at her school. Not surprisingly, 80% of her peers said they would not use hearing protection at a loud concert. Annalissa will present a poster on her research at the conference, and discuss educational strategies for changing her peers' attitudes and behavior.

Noise-induced hearing loss is clearly a risk to youth, but why do so many students—and their parents—do so little to prevent it?

"Because hearing loss is gradual and invisible, it's underappreciated until it's too late and the damage is done," says Oregon Health and Science University researcher William Martin, Genna's father and co-organizer of the Cincinnati conference. "Most people understand that if you stay too long in the sun, it'll give you sunburn," he says. But hearing loss from noise exposure, he points out, is subtle and can take years to manifest itself.

William Martin believes the best way to educate students and change behaviors is to start early. "If you wait until 7th to 9th grade, it's too late." He greatly enjoys his visits to elementary-school classrooms.

During his school visits, Martin delivers a simple lesson that impresses upon young students how their hearing can be damaged. Calling upon the students to act as scientists, he instructs them on how to make a model of the hair cells in their inner ear.

Martin asks the students to hold out an arm and make a fist, as if they are holding a bouquet of flo
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