Let’s Make Noise Safer

By Vicky Chan

April 25 is International Noise Awareness Day, an annual, vital reminder to take a stand against noise exposure and to spread awareness about the underestimated threat of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Seemingly harmless rhythms, roars, and blasts heard daily from music, trains, and machinery are, in fact, among the top offenders of NIHL.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) progressively occurs after chronic exposure to loud sounds. The frequency and intensity of the sound level, measured in decibels (dB), increases the risk of NIHL. Gradual hearing loss can result from prolonged contact with noise levels of 85 dB or greater, such as heavy city traffic. Noises of 110 dB or more, like construction (110 dB), an ambulance (120dB), or the pop of firecrackers (140-165 dB) can damage one’s hearing in a minute’s time.


NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that is completely preventable, yet billions of individuals endanger themselves daily. Over 1.1 billion young adults ages 12 to 35—an age group that frequently uses headphones to listen to music—are at risk. Already, an estimated 12.5% of young people ages of 6 to 19 have hearing loss as a result of using earbuds or headphones at a high volume. A device playing at maximum volume (105 dB) is dangerous, so exposure to sounds at 100 dB for more than 15 minutes is highly discouraged.

Most major cities around the world have transit systems that put commuters in contact with sounds at 110 dB. BBC News found that London’s transit systems can get as loud as 110 dB, which is louder than a nearby helicopter taking off. The sound levels of some stations exceed the threshold for which occupational hearing protection is legally required. New York City has one of the largest and oldest subway systems in the world where 91% of commuters exceed the recommended levels of noise exposure annually. In a study on Toronto’s subway system, 20% of intermittent bursts of impulse noises were greater than 114 dB.

People who work in certain fields are more vulnerable to NIHL than others. Professional musicians, for instance, are almost four times as likely to develop NIHL than the general public. Military personnel, who are in extremely close proximity to gunfire and blasts, are more likely to return home from combat with hearing loss and/or tinnitus than any other type of injury. And airport ground staff are surrounded by high-frequency aircraft noises at 140 dB. In all of these professions, the hazard of NIHL can be significantly mitigated with hearing protection.

NIHL is permanent. Increased exposure to excess noise destroys the sensory cells in the inner ears (hair cells), which decreases hearing capacity and leads to hearing loss. Once damaged, the sensory cells cannot be restored. To find a solution, Hearing Health Foundation’s (HHF) Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) conducts groundbreaking research on inner ear hair cell regeneration in hopes of discovering a life-changing cure.

Nearly three-quarters of those who are exposed to loud noises rarely or never use hearing protection. It is our dream that someday, NIHL will be reversible as a result of the HRP. Until then, to make noise safer, HHF advises protection by remembering to Block, Walk, and Turn. Block out noises by wearing earplugs or protective earmuffs. Walk away or limit exposure to high-levels of noises. Turn down the volume of electronic devices.

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Music-Induced Hearing Loss: What Do College Students Know?

By Frankie Huang

Music-induced hearing loss (MIHL) is a result from listening to music that exceeds 85 decibels for prolonged periods of time. A decibel, or dB, is a unit to measure sound intensity, and 85 dB is roughly equivalent to the sound of heavy city traffic. Our listening devices and preferred listening levels are the leading cause for MIHL. For example, when you’re working out at the gym and you up the volume of your music to 100% to drown out the music the gym is broadcasting, you are putting yourself at risk for permanent hearing loss.

The frequent use of these devices to listen to music and watch videos typically requires the use of headphones, increasing the risk of MIHL. Portnuff, Figor, and Arehart (2011) found that a person should only use their listening devices for no more than 4 hours per day at 70% volume, or 90 minutes per day at 80% volume.

In a recent study, researchers measured college students’ knowledge on the proper use of listening devices and the effects of listening to music at high volumes. It was found that prolonged use of these devices coupled with loud preferred listening levels is higher in males than in females, with males being less aware of safe listening habits and were more likely to exceed the recommended daily limit. The study also found that female students were more conscious of these limits and more knowledgeable about the maximum listening levels per day, compared with their male counterparts. Furthermore, younger students (freshmen) were less aware of safe listening levels compared with older students who were sophomores.

The use of certain headphones can also increase the risk of MIHL. Among college students, in-ear headphones (e.g., earbuds) are more commonly used than over-the-ear, noise-canceling headphones, and in-ear headphones are associated with a higher risk of MIHL. The biggest difference between in-ear and over-the-ear headphone users was the individual’s listening levels: The study found that in-ear headphone users preferred to listen at a higher volume, while over-the-ear headphone users favored a lower volume because the noise-canceling features meant ambient noise was less of an issue.

Headphone users tend to increase the volume if they can’t block out environmental noises. New York City, for example, is usually noisy so individuals are more likely to listen to their music at a higher volume, which is putting individuals at a greater risk of MIHL. There’s also a greater preference for in-ear headphones between males and females. According to the studies, 52.8% of males believed that in-ear headphones delivered better sound than over-the-ear headphones, compared with 46.4% of females.

Overall, the study suggested that individuals should refrain from listening to music and watching videos at the maximum volume for an extensive amount of time. However, if there’s too much background noise, and it's a distraction, the individual should only increase the volume to 80% of the maximum for no more than 90 minutes daily. In addition, education about the risks of hearing loss and how to prevent it is important, including how noise-canceling headphones drown out environmental noises so the wearer can enjoy music on their personal devices at safer levels.

Hearing loss is irreversible, so investing in a quality headphone that can reduce the risk of MIHL is priceless.


Berg, Abbey L. et al. Music-Induced Hearing Loss:What Do College Students Know?. 43rd ed. 2016. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.


Your Support Is Needed!

Hair cell regeneration is a plausible goal for eventual treatment of hearing and balance disorders.

The question is not if we will regenerate hair cells in humans, but when.  

However, we need your support to continue this vital research and find a cure!

Please make your gift today.

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A Special Message from Claire Schultz, CEO of HHF

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.
Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.

-Helen Keller

We are so very grateful for your support of our research to cure hearing loss and tinnitus, and for your interest in prevention and hearing health. The following are some of our achievements during 2015:

Emerging Research Grants (ERG) - HHF awarded 10 grants in Tinnitus, Ménière's, Central Auditory Processing Disorder, and Hyperacusis. The longstanding commitment to funding the highest quality research projects remains an important priority. Learn more about how to fund a named grant, here.

Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) Published Research - HRP consortium members had their HHF-funded research published in renowned scientific publications, a big accomplishment that shows progress toward our goal and reinforces the value provided by our collaborative research approach. Check out our blog in 2016 for more updates on their path to find a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus. 

Research Briefings and Events - Our new series of live-video research updates offers an exclusive look at progress being made by our HRP Consortium members. These successful webinars, as well as HRP research events in local cities around the U.S., will continue in 2016. Watch our most recent briefing, here.

Safe and Sound - HHF and Puro Sound Labs, a consumer headphone company have partnered to spread the word about responsible listening, hearing loss prevention, and the importance of hearing health. Puro Sound's headphones have a built-in sound control device to help monitor music decibel levels and allow listeners to enjoy music while simultaneously protecting their hearing. Buy your pair today!


HHF Took Action - In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report on the prevalence of disability in the U.S. that excluded hearing loss. HHF took action and asked others to join our efforts; 8,500 people signed our petition which we sent to White House representatives. The result was positive; the CDC issued a statement that changes are underway.

Your contribution today ensures we continue advancing the research in 2016. Together, we will make the dream of cure a reality.

Thank you in advance for your generosity. May the New Year bring you good health and happiness.  


Sincerely yours,

Claire Schultz, CEO

Any donation you send before December 31st will be instantly

doubled thanks to a generous matching gift from one
of our supporters - you will make twice the IMPACT!

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By Chill Kechil

Chill Kechil is a Les Paul Ambassador, helping to educate musicians and others about the risks of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. The New Jersey-based DJ and composer recently released two versions of a song, “Fly,” featuring vocals by Shakila Azhar, in addition to two holiday songs. He is donating a portion of their sales to Hearing Health Foundation

As a person with hearing loss, he has made adjustments in order to compose and perform. Here, he talks about the genesis for the songs and what he likes in music.

My latest collaboration is with Shakila Azhar. She is a singer who lives in Singapore, and she happens to be my wife’s cousin. She flies in airplanes for a living and sings at her company’s events. My wife told me Shakila has a killer voice, so when I finally met her we talked about doing a song together. 

Through this song I wanted to capture the spirit of flying, along with her soulful vocals. We recorded “Fly” over a few hours, when she had a stopover in New York City, but I’ll admit it took me almost a year to finish the production.  I hadn’t worked with live vocals before, and I wanted it to be perfect so I really took my time about getting it right. I was also using a new version of my music production software. Shakila’s improvised vocals and lyrics added real soul to the song. 

There are two versions available, a dance version, and a deep house version. I realize now that there could be a connection between my high frequency hearing loss, making it hard to hear higher pitches, and my love for deep house music, which has heavy kick drum beats and a deep bass line. Actually it’s funny, but the idea for the bass line in the deep house version of “Fly” came about while I was doing a holiday song based on Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from “The Nutcracker.” 

But it’s not just the deep sounds that I like in my music. The tune should be very melodic. I like women’s vocals floating over the top, and instead of typical three note chords, I like to use four or five notes in each chord like in jazz music (another of my favorite genres). House music combines all of these things—deep sounds, melodic vocals, and rich chords. The software just changes the entire production of a song, letting me visualize the notes and chords while composing. It brings hundreds of instruments to my fingertips.   

When it comes to curating songs for internet radio stations or creating a DJ set, most have kind of a danceable beat. My preferences are really chill, lounge beats and house music that can flow smoothly together from one song to the next. You can say I live up to my Chill Kechil name because most of the songs I produce or play have this chill, danceable beat to them.

Protecting my hearing by covering my ears is always a priority. The headphones I wear for DJing have to isolate the sound from the mixer while also protecting my ears from the ambient sound and noise. This way, I don’t have to turn the volume up as much when I’m mixing a DJ set. The headphones make the bass sound warmer, while reducing the higher frequencies that can hurt the ears and lead to ear fatigue. I always try to be careful by allowing my ears to rest at least a week between DJ gigs, and to check my smartphone’s decibel meter for loudness when catching other DJ or music acts. And, of course it goes without saying... I always have my earplugs handy.

He DJs regularly at Skinny Bar & Lounge on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Look for him on open turntable nights. Read more about Chill Kechil and his music in Hearing Health's Spring 2015 article here.

Chill Kechil believes in the mission of HHF and its search for a cure for
hearing lossand tinnitus. He is donating a portion of sales of
“Fly" and the
holiday songs “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" and “Carol of the Bells” to HHF.
chillkechil.com to listen to samples and purchase.

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Puro Sound Labs Officially Launches Hearing-healthy Headphones for The Entire Family to Enjoy

California-based company to debut with the first ever studio-grade Bluetooth wireless headphones for kids

LA JOLLA, Calif., December 18, 2014 – Puro Sound Labs, a premiere consumer electronics audio company, is proud to announce their official launch into the market today. The company will provide consumers with premium quality, hearing-healthy, contemporary designed on-ear and over-ear headphone monitors at disruptive prices. Puro Sound Labs introduces the BT2200, Bluetooth “Kid-friendly” headphones with built-in volume optimization. This is the first in a line of products that aim to deliver this unique experience and value.  

The Puro Sound Labs BT2200 are Bluetooth headphones created specifically for kids and designed with the health and safety of a child as a priority. They will be the first ever and only studio-grade Bluetooth headphones on the market made especially for kids with volume limiting ear protection. Volume levels over 85 decibels (dB) have been known to cause hearing loss over time. Their unique headphone design protects children’s ears, while delivering studio-grade sound. With hearing health and education in mind, Puro Sound has committed to donating a portion of every sale of all Puro Sound products through 2015 to the Hearing Health Foundation.

“Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable; however prolonged exposure to sounds that are 85 decibels (dB) or above, such as loud music, is often the culprit. By placing an 85 dB volume limit on their headphones, Puro Sound is taking significant strides towards protecting children’s hearing against premature hearing loss. We are excited to work together to achieve the same goal of both educating and providing consumers with hearing-friendly solutions,” said Claire Schultz, CEO, Hearing Health Foundation. “We are looking forward to their continued support and their on-going efforts towards our collective cause.” To find out more about safe listening levels and how to prevent hearing loss, visit us here.

Puro Sound Labs headphones are designed with a unique frequency response curve called Puro Balanced Response®, designed to recreate the natural sound produced in a perfectly tuned listening room in the headphone listening experience. This helps to maximize the satisfaction of Healthy Ears® hearing protection.

Great care has gone into the design and materials used in the headphones. A soft and supple cushioning material and durable lightweight aluminum are used to make the headphones comfortable for young ears and to stand up to everyday use. Their design also attenuates 82% of ambient noise, eliminating a need for higher volume limits. When combined, Puro’s Balanced Response® Curve and the headphones’ noise attenuation design, kids can enjoy their music with no need to exceed safe playback levels.

Parents will love them for their great value and hearing health while kids will love them for their comfort, wireless Bluetooth freedom and great sound. Plus, when employing Bluetooth wireless technology, the chance of a child getting tangled or caught on the headphones’ cable is reduced.

  • Unique volume governor system that limits sound output on most portable devices to 85 dB for parents’ peace of mind

  • Puro Limiter cable insures 85 dB sound limit for the auxiliary wired experience

  • Puro Balanced Response® equally balances bass, mids and highs, delivering clear, understandable vocal reproduction without excessive volume

  • Ambient noise limiting by up to 82%* - even in noisy environments like an airplane, allowing for reasonable listening levels

  • Integrated microphone for seamless use with a phone

  • 18 Hours of Battery Life for Music Playback & 200 Hours Standby

  • Durable, Lightweight Aluminum Construction

  • Supple Protein Leather Ear Cushions and Headband

  • Puro EQ App for iOS (Android coming soon)

  • Folds Flat for Travel

Puro Sound has also developed the Puro Sound Equalizer App, an iOS 16-band EQ application that allows headphones to be customized to the listener's sound and genre preferences. A version of the app for Android devices will be available after the first of the year.

“Using only the very best of science and engineering available, we have mastered the art of methodically replicating big room sound by fine-tuning our audio products with our signature Puro Balanced Response Curve. We are creating products that will lead to a new generation of premium sound entertainment and I am excited about what’s to come in 2015,” said Jason Wehner, CTO of Puro Sound Labs.

The “Kid-friendly” Puro Sound Labs BT2200 will be available for $79.99 in White/silver and Tan/gold colors and available through authorized online resellers including amazon.com and purosound.com.

*Source: Puro Sound Labs

About Puro Sound Labs
Established in 2014, Puro Sound Labs is a premiere consumer electronics audio company that designs innovative and audiophile quality audio products. Using only the very best of science and engineering available, Puro Sound Labs engineers have been able to master the art of methodically replicating big room sound and fine-tuning audio and introducing a new generation of premium sound entertainment. You know great sound when you hear it – Puro Sound Labs know the science behind creating it. For more information please visit www.purosound.com

About Hearing Health Foundation
Hearing Health Foundation is the largest private funder of hearing research, with a mission to prevent and cure hearing loss through groundbreaking research. Since 1958 Hearing Health Foundation has given away millions of dollars to hearing and balance research, including work that led to cochlear implant technology and now through the Hearing Restoration Project is working on a cure for hearing loss. Hearing Health Foundation also publishes Hearing Health magazine, a free consumer resource on hearing loss and related technology, research, and products. To learn more, subscribe to our magazine, or support this work, visit www.hhf.org.

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"Hear Today, Gone Tomorrow," says the NYC Department of Health

By Tara Guastella

Last week, the New York City Department of Health announced the launch of a new public health awareness campaign. Rather than targeting oversize soft drinks or styrofoam containers, this ad campaign focuses on a very important issue: noise-induced hearing loss. The campaign warns that listening to headphones at a high volume can lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.

The health department collected data on levels of hearing loss and found that nearly one out of four adults ages 18 to 44 who report heavy headphone use say they have hearing problems. This group was also more than twice as likely to report hearing problems than those who report light-to-moderate use or no use of headphones.

“Listening to headphones at a high volume for too long can damage your hearing,” says Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, M.D. “If you want to continue to enjoy music in the future, you’ll turn down the volume today.”

The hearing loss is permanent. Unlike birds, fish, and reptiles, humans and all mammals cannot restore their own hearing because we don’t have the ability regenerate inner ear hair cells. So when those hair cells are damaged by chronic exposure to loud sounds, our ability to hear is irreversibly compromised.

HHF’s Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) is working toward a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus. Our HRP consortium members are working collaboratively and sharing data on their findings in bird, zebrafish, and mouse studies. By doing so, they are able to asses how birds and zebrafish show regeneration while a mouse does not, after a very early developmental time. Other HRP research examines which cell types we are likely to need to target in damaged human ears to induce regeneration.  

As our HRP researchers work toward a cure within the next decade, it is important to take precautionary steps to prevent further loss of hearing. Follow this advice from the NYC Department of Health:

  • Reduce the volume, limit listening time, and take regular breaks.

  • Never listen at maximum volume and do not turn the volume up to drown out external noise.

  • Use volume limiting features of personal listening devices.

  • Know the early signs of hearing loss and ask a doctor for a hearing test if you have trouble hearing conversation, need to turn up the volumes on TV, radio, or personal music players or experience ringing in the ear.

Safe listening!

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When Was Your Last Hearing Test?

By Tara Guastella

Nearly 50 million Americans experience some degree of hearing loss and tinnitus. However, on average a person will have trouble hearing for 7 to 10 years before seeing a hearing health professional.

Why do we wait so long to have a hearing test? If you had trouble with your vision, would you wait to see an eye doctor? Probably not. Many feel that hearing loss is something that only affects the elderly, but nowadays a greater number of young adults are being afflicted by hearing loss (and tinnitus). One in 5 teenagers has a hearing loss and that number will likely increase over the next two decades.

The biggest likely reason for the increase among young adults is exposure to loud sounds. Approximately 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises at work or in leisure activities.

A recent study in New York City found that young adults (ages 18 to 44) who routinely listen to loud music with headphones (defined as loud use five to seven days per week for four or more hours per day) were also more likely to have hearing loss and tinnitus. Hearing loss among adolescents has also increased more than 30 percent between 1988 and 2006. The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recommends reducing the volume, limiting your listening time, and taking regular breaks when using headphones. Never listen at maximum volume.

In honor of National Audiology Awareness Month & National Protect Your Hearing Month this October, schedule an appointment with an audiologist or otolaryngologist (ENT) to have your (or a family member’s) hearing checked. You can find a hearing healthcare provider in your area here. By having a hearing test, you’re taking the first step toward making hearing health a priority and ensuring you don’t miss wonderful sounds, such as hearing your family’s voices.

The American Academy of Audiology also provides a number of resources for you to raise awareness of protecting your hearing this month. From facts sheets on different forms of hearing loss to web tools to posters, you can find a variety of resources here. Take action in your community and spread the word about the importance of hearing healthcare today.

Please share with us how you will be protecting your hearing this month in the comments below.

1 Hearing Problems and Heaphone Use in New York City; NYC Vital Signs, NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, July 2013, Volume 12, No. 2: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/survey/survey-2013noise.pdf

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