Westone Highlights Ear Peace Foundation's Work

While exhibiting at the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) annual conference in February 2019, Westone Laboratories' Ryan Lee ran into Kelly Culhane, who had just received the Girl Scouts' National Gold Award for her work as an ambassador with the Ear Peace: Save Your Hearing Foundation. Ear Peace Foundation is an educational non-profit organization based in Miami whose goal is "to make young people aware of the problem of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and motivate them to take effective measure to protect their hearing."

Lee asked Kelly to do a quick interview about her role with the foundation and what she hopes to achieve as an ambassador. The interview, passed on by Westone Laboratories' Ryan Lee to OH&S, follows.

How did you initially come to be involved with Ear Peace: Save Your Hearing Foundation?
I have been involved with Girl Scouts for 12 years and with music for 13 years. Before high school, I focused on choir and classical singing with a vocal training focus on classical technique. My interest in becoming a doctor is the reason I began looking for a current, health-related issue for my Girl Scout Gold Award project. At the beginning of my freshman year, I heard an interview on National Public Radio with Adele Sandberg, founder of Ear Peace: Save Your Hearing Foundation. She discussed noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in children, how she used pipe cleaners to demonstrate to elementary students the permanent damage done by loud sounds to the 18,000 tiny hair cells we are born with in each ear, and how simple it is to protect our hearing. After learning that one in five teenagers in the U.S. has NIHL by the age of 19, that 45 percent of music students will have this type of hearing loss by age 25, and that it can affect me and every other child, teen, young adult, and adult around the world, I decided to take action and partnered with the foundation.

What is the best part for you of working with Ear Peace Foundation?
The best part about working with Ear Peace Foundation has been the opportunity to teach young students and K-12 teachers about noise-induced hearing loss. After I completed the foundation's training program and became a student ambassador for the organization, both Adele and Dr. Sherilyn M. Adler (their Executive Director), were confident about my ability to talk about this issue to a variety of audiences. I have truly enjoyed being able to work with them and coming up with new ideas for ways to spread the word, while still learning more everyday about this very important health issue.

Do you have any specific goals that you are hoping to achieve with Ear Peace Foundation, and if so, what are they?
Ear Peace Foundation, an educational nonprofit organization, and I have share a common goal: to spread the word about NIHL to as many people as possible, with a particular focus on young people. During the four years I’ve worked with the foundation, we have reached elementary school students, high school students, teachers of every grade level, and even pediatricians around the state of Florida. This past July, I was selected as one of only ten 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scouts (the first ever chosen from the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida and in the South Florida areas of Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties). As a National Gold Award Girl Scout (NGAGS), I have been presented with an amazing opportunity to reach people of all ages across the country and help them understand how to preserve their hearing.

As a National Gold Award Girl Scout, I have committed to representing the Girl Scouts of the USA and participating in local and national speaking events and media opportunities. Since the national press release, I have been interviewed for Yahoo! Finance Live Market Movers (a nationally webcast show) and Her Campus (an on-line campus national news service for college-aged women) while having also been featured by local press on Miami's CBS 4 series, "Mentoring Matters."

Using my Gold Award project and NGAGS designation as a springboard, Ear Peace Foundation and I are currently collaborating with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) staff to continue to spread the word about NIHL and its prevention. I plan to continue working with Ear Peace Foundation over the course of my college experience. As I continue to spread the word about NIHL nationally, my goal is nothing less than a national paradigm shift. We teach our children to take many measures to stay safe and healthy, but, we haven't been teaching them to protect their hearing. One day soon, protecting our hearing will be as common as putting on a seat belt, wearing a bike helmet, or applying sunscreen. Young people deserve to enjoy a lifetime of healthy listening.

How have you benefited from working with Ear Peace Foundation?
The most important way I have benefited from working with Ear Peace Foundation is the knowledge I have gained from working on this issue and my increased confidence with public speaking. Before I got involved with the foundation, I had never understood the impact that dangerously loud sounds can have on our ears. Even though music's always been an important part of my life, I had no idea that it could permanently harm my hearing, especially at such a young age. That awareness is what inspires me to spread the word to as many people as possible. The foundation has taught me so much about this critical health issue while always being supportive of my desire to learn more about this topic and to share this knowledge with others. They have also been willing to respect that, as a teen myself, I bring helpful information about how to successfully present this issue to young people.

Why should other young adults your age be interested in joining Ear Peace Foundation?
Most young people enjoy music and other recreational activities that involve sound exposure. By working with Ear Peace Foundation, they will have the opportunity to help preserve the hearing health of other young people in today’s loud world. Adele Sandberg and Dr. Sherilyn Adler have been the most supportive and helpful mentors to me throughout this project, as they're both always very enthusiastic about my new ideas and willing to provide many different learning opportunities. I have gained so much knowledge about the issue of NIHL in just four short years and understand how crucial it is that we get the word out to as many people as possible. Anyone who works with the foundation will gain that knowledge and experience for themselves. Ear Peace Foundation truly wants to help the next generation of young people learn how to preserve their hearing and so do I. They have inspired me to continue advocating for the prevention of NIHL in the future.

Are you hoping to work for or with Ear Peace Foundation in more of a full-time role after you've finished school?
I have recently been accepted at both the University of Florida and Davidson College and am waiting on a few more college decisions. I plan to continue to serve as an Ambassador for Ear Peace Foundation at whatever college I attend and, potentially, during my medical school career following that. While I am uncertain about working with Ear Peace Foundation in a full-time role in the future, I can tell you that I definitely plan to continue my involvement with their organization because of how passionate I have become about the issue of NIHL prevention for young people around the world.

If there's one thing you would want people to know about Ear Peace Foundation, what would that be?
Ear Peace Foundation has become somewhat of a second family to me. They are truly dedicated to ensuring the well-being of every person who is at risk for permanent hearing loss due to exposure to loud sound. The current epidemic of NIHL affects people of all ages, everywhere in the world, and the people working with the Foundation truly want to see a time when every child knows how to preserve their hearing so they can enjoy a lifetime of healthy listening.

Had you ever been involved with any other hearing loss organizations before Ear Peace Foundation?
Before I became involved with the Foundation, I was totally unaware of the issue of permanent but preventable hearing loss in young people. Although Ear Peace Foundation was the first hearing loss organization I became involved with, I am fortunate that, as a result of my Gold Award project and recognition as a National Gold Award Girl Scout, I'll have the opportunity to collaborate with many other amazing people and organizations in the world of hearing loss prevention.

Posted on May 13, 2019

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