Raising awareness for good hearing
One in five Australian teenagers can no longer hear very well. This alarming statistic is what prompted an Australian organization to set up a program of one-hour school workshops to teach 10- to 13-year-olds about the risks posed by MP3 players and other sources of noise.
Place & Year
Project PartnersGrow Smart Foundation
To date, the “Hear2day” project has informed 3,720 young people in Australia about the risks of noise-induced hearing loss through workshops held at their schools. Over the course of an hour, the pupils are shown a range of short, child-friendly and illustrative videos. For example, how our sense of hearing works, what exactly happens in the ear when a loud noise is picked up, and at what volumes sounds can become harmful. “It always astonishes me when schoolchildren turn their MP3 players up to 100 to 105 decibels. They believe this is completely normal and are utterly unaware of the risk they are exposing themselves to,” explains Dr. Julia Norris, founder of the Grow Smart Foundation. The pupils particularly enjoy having the opportunity to test out volumes themselves on devices they have brought with them. This is the best way for them to learn how to gauge what noise levels pose a danger to hearing. This year, the Hear the World Foundation is providing funding for new equipment for the school workshops, so that ear simulators, volume measuring devices and other technology can be used to help teach as many children as possible about the importance of hearing.
Noise is the number one cause of acquired hearing loss
To stave off a “hidden epidemic” – a term often applied to hearing loss – the Australian organization Grow Smart is increasingly expanding its activities. Its aim is not only to cover the whole of Australia, but to branch out to other countries such as the USA, South Africa, New Zealand and Norway. In collaboration with other international organizations, the Australians are eager to develop information resources and methods to help protect people against acquired hearing loss. In the future, they intend to open up the program to a wider audience beyond elementary school children, with the workshops being presented in a slightly different format to high schools, universities, local communities and industry organizations too. Grow Smart has also enlisted the help of a university to design its very own app, which can be downloaded to smart phones free of charge.
Interview with Dr. Julia Norris
Four years ago, Australian Dr. Julia Norris set up the Grow Smart Foundation and developed the Hear2day program. This is her report on the Workshops conducted in Australian schools.
What is the starting point of a Workshop?
Realizing that even music is a form of noise is the first step for the school children, and the biggest hurdle they have to overcome. We then talk about various sources of noise and their effects on our hearing. We want to apply knowledge to daily life in a very tangible way by combining science with storytelling and having fun.
How do school children respond to the information provided?
Working with children is fantastic. They immediately join in with their own stories. Girls tell us about loud music in ballet classes, while boys talk about motorsport. What alarms me the most is how many children carry on listening to music through earphones in bed in the evening, not realizing how dangerous this is.
What kind of feedback do you receive from the teachers at the schools involved?
The feedback we receive from them is very positive. They are pleasantly surprised by the teaching material we provide and find the workshops just as thought-provoking as the children do. Many of the teachers who listen to music themselves while they are out jogging were among the first to test the noise levels of their MP3 players. They also took away the free ear protectors we gave out to use when mowing the lawn at weekends.