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New Hearing Loss Prevention Campaign is Music to Children's Ears

When we say “Bud campaign,” are you thinking of Super Bowl beer commercials?

Well, you shouldn’t. If you are a parent or a grandparent of a young child, or, for that matter, anyone concerned with children’s health and hearing, let us introduce you to Justin Roberts.

Musician Justin Roberts
Musician Justin Roberts

In an unlikely case you haven’t heard of Roberts or had a chance to listen to his music, here is a blurb from his website,www.justinroberts.org: “Truly one of the ‘all-stars’ of the indie family music scene, he logs thousands of miles on the road each year, leading some to call him the hardest working man in children's show business. With national awards and recognition and a devoted fan base, Justin and his wonderfully named band mates ‘The Not Ready for Naptime Players’ dish out unexpectedly intelligent and whimsically rocking music for kids and their parents.”

As he himself told Healthy Hearing recently, “We are a five piece rock band, with electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, trumpet and keyboards. Our trumpet player wears giant shoes and has a puppet that we sometimes talk to on stage. The music and lyrics are meant to appeal to both kids and parents so there is a mixture of poppy punk rock, gentle ballads, and all sorts of other genres of music. The lyrics tend to be about a kid's experience growing up in the world.”

It sounds very enticing, but there is another good reason why you should lend an ear to Robert’s music –and his message.

Making beautiful – and safe – music together

As part of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) “Listen to Your Buds” campaign, Roberts is singing praises to safe use of personal audio technology among children.

He is one of many leading musicians (see below) who have taken the "Buds" pledge to spread the message about safe listening habits with kids everywhere as part of the far-reaching campaign, which ASHA is running in collaboration with Parents' Choice Foundation. "

Recent research regarding the threat of hearing loss in young people validates our effort to educate kids and their parents about safe listening practices," 2008 ASHA President Catherine Gottfred said in a statement.

When approached to participate in the campaign, Roberts was eager to jump on the bandwagon. “I was thrilled to be asked as this was an issue that I was concerned about early on,” he told Healthy Hearing. “We've always made a point of trying to keep our concerts soft enough for young ears, which is difficult for a rock band. We work with our live sound engineers to try to reduce the decibel level in the audience during our sound checks. So this project seemed like a perfect match.”

For the ASHA program, Roberts and the band created a comic skit involving their puppet, Little Dave, listening to his earphones too loud. “We then had the members of the band represent different parts of the ear and demonstrated how soft and loud sounds impact different parts of the ear,” he said. “The kids at the ASHA program really laughed at Little Dave's experience learning about sound. I think the best way to teach is by telling a story, and I'm hoping they took some of that story home with them.”

Roberts will be joined in promoting safe listening practices by Brady Rymer; Trout Fishing in America; Sweet Honey in the Rock; Bobs & Lolo; Flo Ayres; Nancy Tucker; Linda Severt; Gunnar Madsen; David Grover; Susan Salidor; Putumayo Kids; The Jimmies; Tracey Eldridge; Musical Kids International; Laughing Pizza'; Eric Ode; Jody Dreher; Jeanie B! and the Jelly Beans; Joanie Leeds; David Hall; Hullabaloo Band; Steve Weeks; Lisa Monet; Robyn Dupuis; Steve Pullara and His Cool Beans Band; Dafe Womack; Health Rock; Jay Mankita; and Makin' Music Rockin' Rhythms.

Listen To Your Buds Concert

A Recent "Listen to Your Buds" Concert with Justin Robert's.

(Photo courtesy: ASHA)

Preventing the damage before it’s too late

Kids may not want to hear it, but this important message must be driven home: prolonged exposure to loud music – the kind they listen to relentlessly on their iPods and other devices - can irreparably damage their hearing.

The earlier this message is conveyed to children, the less chance there is that it will fall on deaf ears later on.

That is why AHSA’s “Listen to Your Buds” website (www.listentoyourbuds.org) is specially designed to appeal to youngsters. It cleverly and creatively features two cartoon ear bud characters and outlines The Rules of Thumb safety guidelines for kids 6 and older. These recommendations are:

  • Lower the volume
  • Limit listening time
  • Upgrade your headphones

In a statement given to Healthy Hearing Dennis Burrows, ASHA's 2008 VIce President for Standards and Ethics in Audiology, said this on the campaign: "This project is designed to promote safe listening when using personal audio technology (i.e.  IPOD, MP3, etc.).  In 2006, a national polling commissioned by ASHA  indicated that usage of personal audio devices, especially among the young is unsafe. The Buds campaign aims to educate the very young in a fun yet informative way so they develop safe listening habits (i.e., turning down the volume) at an early age."

A message that speaks (low) volumes

The first ever “Listen to Your Buds” concert was performed by Roberts’ and his band on November 19, 2008 at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. His message to the school-age audience was clear: protect your ears by turning down the volume when listening to music and take frequent breaks while you’re at it.

That is a lesson Roberts himself learned (and took to heart) as a teen. “I remember going to a ‘Who’ concert when I was 14 and thinking loud music was the coolest thing in the world,” he recalled. “However, when I was about 24, Pete Townsend came out and told the world that he had lost some of his hearing due to the loud shows that he had played throughout his youth. That was a really powerful message for me. I'm hoping that kids learning about protecting their hearing at a young age will make them more careful while enjoying music throughout their lives.”

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