Hearing Health Foundation

Turning Fourth of July Into a Science Lesson

By Kelly N. Barahona

In most cities if not towns of a certain size in the U.S., a grand display of fireworks for the Fourth of July is part of the celebration of America’s birthday. But just how loud are the fireworks people have come to expect every summer? Unfortunately fireworks can measure from 140 to as high as 165 decibels, easily a hearing-damaging event if you are sitting too close.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the festivities. With the abundance of decibel-reading apps for smartphones it’s easier than ever before to learn how much noise is in the world around us. Most apps use the smartphone’s microphone to give a reading of the decibel level. As with a professional-grade meter, most apps can also show how the noise fluctuates over time, in real time, and provide numerical reference points that users can compare to their own sound levels. Some apps even let you geo-tag the decibel level to a specific location, like your local coffee shop or favorite restaurant.

Parents, camp counselors, and teachers can turn the Fourth of July into a science lesson. On the night of the fireworks show, Hearing Health Foundation recommends staying at least one block away from where the fireworks are being displayed and using a smartphone app to measure the decibel level.

If you want to be closer to the action, protect your hearing by using foam earplugs or over-the-ear earmuffs for the youngest children. A fun but loud activity like this can be a good segue for conversations about how listening to music at too loud a volume and participating in noisy recreational activities may be harmful, as well as how to incorporate better hearing health practices in your daily life.

Fourth of July should be a time of fun and enjoyment, but as with anything, it is necessary to take precautions to make the holiday safe as well. Teach your loved ones about the noises and sounds around them to hopefully encourage everyone to take active measures to protect their hearing on a regular basis. Remember, noise is the most preventable cause of hearing loss.

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Hearing Loss: The Costs, The Effect on Society and How to Prevent It

Hearing Health Foundation's Communications and Programs Manager, Laura Friedman, was featured in the Mediaplanet UK's Ear, Nose, and Throat Campaign. Read her article on Hearing Loss: the costs, the effect on society and how to prevent it, here

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You're Losing Hearing Faster Than You Think

“I went to a restaurant and it was 104 decibels,” says Nadine Dehgan of the Hearing Health Foundation, a New York-based organization that helps fund research for medical and technological advances in hearing loss. “It was hours of 104-dB pop music. I told them, ‘This is damaging to the customers,’ and they turned it down.”


Hearing aids remain costly, as much as several thousand dollars for one. “Hearing aids are cheaper, but I wouldn’t call them cheap,” says Laura Friedman of the Hearing Health Foundation. “Glasses are covered by insurance companies but those companies don’t cover hearing aids. They consider it cosmetic.”

Hearing Health Foundation's CEO, Nadine Dehgan, and Communications and Programs Manager, Laura Friedman, were quoted in Men's Journal on the dangers of noise and the costs of hearing aids. Read the full article, here

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HHF Welcomes New Board Members in April 2017

By Nadine Dehgan

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is delighted to welcome Bob Shannon, Ph.D., and Ruth Anne Eatock, Ph.D., to our Board of Directors. Their unwavering commitment toward advancing research to better understand hearing loss and its associated disorders make Drs. Shannon and Eatock perfect additions to our leadership team.


Dr. Robert Shannon is a research professor of otolaryngology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine with over four decades of experience in researching auditory perception and psychoacoustics. He also serves as an editor and reviewer for several prominent scientific journals and funding agencies and has published more than 100 scientific articles on his research. Most recently Dr. Shannon has been a primary investigator on research studies that advance the technology and effectiveness of the auditory brainstem implant (ABI), an auditory prosthesis for people who have a non-functioning auditory nerve. The ABI is the first device approved by the Food and Drug Administration for prosthetic electrical stimulation of the human brainstem.

“I initially got involved with HHF (then DRF) by joining the Science Review Committee, to ensure the high quality of the research proposals, and later joined the Council of Scientific Trustees,” said Dr. Shannon. “Now I look forward to continued service on the HHF Board of Directors to have an integral role in pushing the Foundation’s research efforts forward.”


Dr. Ruth Anne Eatock is a professor of neurobiology and the dean of Faculty Affairs for the Biological Sciences Division at the University of Chicago. She trained at McGill, Caltech, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and MIT, and has held academic positions in otolaryngology and neuroscience departments at University of Rochester, Baylor College of Medicine, and Harvard. She has experience mentoring students, fellows and clinical scientists in sensory processing by the inner ear, reviewing federal and private grant applications, editing and reviewing research papers, and organizing hearing research meetings.  These experiences have given her a broad appreciation of the progress and goals driving our diverse hearing research community.

Dr. Eatock notes: “My first independent grant was a Deafness Research Grant (now known as Emerging Research Grants), so I am well aware of the importance of such seed funding in helping new investigators establish themselves and advance hearing research.”

HHF is excited to have Drs. Bob Shannon and Ruth Anne Eatock as new members of our Board of Directors and we look forward to their contributions toward HHF’s mission. Please join us in giving them both a warm welcome!

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The Les Paul Foundation Funds School Initiatives, Music Camps, Classroom Projects, and Hearing Health Programs


The Les Paul Foundation Funds School Initiatives, Music Camps, Classroom Projects, and Hearing Health Programs Recent 2017 Grant Recipients Announced

New York, New York – April 19, 2017 - The Les Paul Foundation, whose mission is to share the legacy of Les Paul, has continued its commitment to provide funding to projects that share Les Paul’s spirit. In 2017, recipient organizations are furthering Les Paul’s dreams and sharing his vision and innovation with their programs.

Organizations that have received funding from the most recent Les Paul Foundation grants include:

Birch Creek Music Performance Center of Egg Harbor, WI offers summer guitar jazz master classes that include discussions of Les Paul’s inventions, experiments and recording technique. Students can access additional Les Paul materials in the Listening/Media Library.

College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, as a leader in providing recording industry education, will be building two recording stations that will allow students to experiment and create new work using the historic techniques that changed the music industry.

The Hearing Health Foundation, headquartered in New York, NY, is the largest nonprofit supporter of hearing research. The Les Paul Foundation Award for Tinnitus Research is awarded annually to the most promising researcher studying the cause of ringing in the ears.

Les Paul Middle School in Waukesha, WI with funding from the Les Paul Foundation will create a hands-on space where students can explore and experiment. Reflecting on the inventions and innovations that came from Les Paul’s garage, school officials decided to create a similar space for students to explore and experiment. The "Maker Space” will provide students a place to share resources and knowledge, network, and collaborate on projects.

Litchfield Jazz Camp and Festival, productions of the nonprofit Litchfield Performing Arts, of Litchfield, CT host Nicki Parrott of the Les Paul Trio to conduct master classes at the Camp in New Milford and at Litchfield Jazz Festival in Goshen August 5th. Nicki shows the relevance of Les Paul’s music and legacy to hundreds of young musicians through these institutions.

New Voices Middle School of Brooklyn, NY received funding for its innovative audio production program that trains students to manage all tech elements for student productions. Students will learn about Les Paul via resources from the Les Paul Foundation website.

Sharon Lynne Wilson Center of Brookfield, WI will include a presentation about Les Paul’s impact on current recording and guitar performing techniques at its annual Guitar Festival. The event has attracted competitors from 16 countries. A guided tour of Discovery World’s Les Paul House of Sound will be included for competitors.

Shell Lake Arts Center of Shell Lake, WI received funding for its Rock Band and Guitar & Bass program to help fund master teachers who work with students of all ages and abilities. Students spend a week at summer camp playing music and celebrating Les Paul’s inventions and philosophy following video showings.

Strings Attached of Ferguson, MO received funding to reinforce its project that addresses social barriers that prevent youth ages 5-17 in working class families from music education. Youth learn to play guitar, ukulele and mandolin using loaner instruments and perform at community gatherings.

VH1 Save the Music of New York, NY received funding to support its mission to ensure that EVERY kid in America has access to music education. Select schools will be invited to participate in a program that introduces Les Paul’s legacy via a challenge for students to create their own sound after they learn how Les created his own sound."

Women’s Audio Mission of San Francisco, CA trains and advances over 1,200 women and girls every year in music technology and recording engineering. Les Paul’s story inspires students for their hands-on electronics projects.

“Les Paul spent his life encouraging others to be innovative and created opportunities that made the world a better place,” said Michael Braunstein, Executive Director of the Les Paul Foundation. “The organizations that have received grants perpetuate many of his philosophies and ideas. He would be very proud that our grantees are continuing his legacy and perpetuating the mission of his very beloved foundation through their work.”

The mission of the Les Paul Foundation is to honor and share the life, spirit and legacy of Les Paul by supporting music education, engineering and innovation as well as medical research. The Les Paul Foundation is an approved IRC 501(c)3 organization that awards grants to music, music engineering and sound programs that serve youths. This year The Les Paul Foundation continues its celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Les Paul. The foundation also provides grants for medical research. The Les Paul Foundation also supports public exhibits which display Les Paul’s life achievements, events that engage fans and students and music releases and related launches which bring about excitement for the sound of Les Paul.  For more information go to www.lespaulfoundation.org.

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High-Tech Hope for the Hard of Hearing

"In 2011, the Hearing Health Foundation based in New York, created the Hearing Restoration Project, a consortium of fourteen scientists who agreed to work together toward that goal, partly with funding from the foundation. One of the originators of the project, Edwin Rubel, who was a co-discoverer of hair-cell regrowth in chickens, told me, “It’s potentially the best thing that ever happened, because it really does bring together a lot of different kinds of expertise.”

Hearing Health Foundation's work toward finding better therapies and cures for hearing loss and tinnitus was featured in the April 3, 2017 Issue of T High-Tech Hope for the Hard of Hearing he New Yorker Magazine. Read the article here.

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Under Normal Circumstances


By Morgan Leppla

March is Disability Awareness Month. In honor of this important awareness month, Hearing Health Foundation is raising awareness and celebrating all of our different abilities and doing our part to reduce the stigma of living with hearing loss and its associated disorders.

Whether we like it or not, people compare themselves to others. Maybe contemporary culture brings it out in us, or perhaps that impulse is rooted in Darwinism ideology of survival of the fittest, reminding us of competitive advantages. Who is taller, more intelligent, faster?

Possibly, it also has to do with how we conceptualize normalcy. In the mid-1800s, Belgian statistician Adolphe Quetelet introduced the idea of “l’homme moyen” (average man) when he realized that human traits are distributed over a bell curve. So the average man would have the mean of all human traits in a single abstract person.

“Normal” entered English vocabulary in 1840 and has since been used to describe bodies and behavior. However, before society focused on the “the norm” it concerned itself with “the ideal.” Take the most coveted parts of bodies and traits that exist and combine them, and that would be the ideal person.

So why is this distinction meaningful? Because every living person is non-ideal, since by definition it cannot exist in one person, whereas people (bodies and traits) can be “normal.” On the contrary, normalcy is attainable on an individual level. And society’s reactive effect to the creation of normal humans was the production of their dichotomous counterparts: the extremes or deviants at the tail ends of the bell curve, the abnormal.

However, a collision of the normal and the ideal occurred when English statistician Francis Galton decided to rank human traits, created quartiles on an intelligence bell curve, and ordered them one to four. One was lowest intelligence and least desirable while four was highest intelligence and most desirable. He reoriented the human ideal using the norm. And now, I would say, it is “normal” to want to be the smartest, most athletic, most attractive, etc.?

The latter half of the 19th century employed pseudo-empirical justifications for describing how bodies should be in fairly clear terms. And to focus on distribution of differences warps the way society approaches normalcy as a concept. It allows us to draw lines where perhaps they ought not exist.

Thus we arrive at the construction of disability. Anyone who does not physically look like others or does not act like others is perceived as deviant or abnormal because they are at the wrong end of the bell curve. Beyond the initial construction of the human normal, barriers that are literal, educational, communicational, and attitudinal further maintain “disability” since nonexistent or poor accommodations along with stigma exacerbate “disabling” differences.

Hearing Health Foundation is encouraging everyone to think about how “norms” have molded our preferences and attitudes and whether that translates to treating people differently. Life may be more arbitrary than you think, and more can be going on than what meets the eye.

HHF is committed to spreading awareness of hearing loss and its associated disorders as well as reducing the stigma attached to them. If you’d like to share your story and experiences with our community, please email us at info@hhf.org.

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HHF Welcomes Two New Board Members

By Nadine Dehgan

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is thrilled to welcome two new board members, Jason Frank and Sophia Boccard. Their unwavering dedication to furthering research and awareness of hearing loss and its associated disorders make Jason and Sophia the perfect addition to our leadership team.

Jason Frank is a Vice President/Assistant General Counsel of JPMorgan & Co. in New York City. Jason and his wife Jenny delved into the world of hearing loss after their son was diagnosed with bilateral, mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss. When looking for resources, Jason says, “We found HHF and the Hearing Restoration Project and knew we wanted to to get involved…. It has been over five years and, while our son is doing wonderfully thanks to early intervention and access to hearing aids since he was 8 weeks old, we remain committed to spreading awareness for hearing loss and finding a cure. I am extremely excited about joining the National Board and becoming more intimately involved with HHF and its cause.”

Sophia Boccard is a digital marketing strategist in the hospitality industry with over a decade of marketing experience in the entertainment industry. “As someone who was born with moderate to severe hearing loss, I've always accepted the loss of hearing as a part of who I am. After being diagnosed with Usher syndrome type 2a in 2012, I realized that a cure for both hearing and vision was something I needed to fight for,” Sophia says. HHF looks forward to working with Sophia to share her experience living with Usher syndrome to raise awareness and find better therapies and cures.

HHF is excited to have Jason and Sophia as new board members and we look forward to their contributions to HHF’s mission. Please join us in giving them both a warm welcome!

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The HRP Shifts Gears for Greater Impact

By Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D.

It’s remarkable to me that the Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) is five years old! While the past five years revealed that regeneration of sensory hair cells is more complex than anticipated, our scientists have nonetheless made significant progress. Several notable HRP research projects supported by Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) were published in 2016, and more are on the way.

Financial investment in the HRP is crucial for our success. Through the HRP, HHF supports promising innovative research areas that due to the lack of available funds are not adequately financed by other agencies. We continue to acquire large-scale genomics datasets, and the more we generate the more valuable they all are—comparing the results from different types of experiments is a key approach of the HRP.

In 2017 we will see a change in the way the HRP conducts its research. At our HRP meeting this past November, the consortium updated its research methods for the upcoming year, choosing to focus and devote more resources on two promising, major experimental strategies. This is a shift from the approach over the past five years, when the HRP followed various independent paths to understanding hair cell regeneration.

The first project will use “single-cell sequencing” experiments, which will reveal the molecular processes of hair cell regeneration in chicks and fish with unprecedented resolution. Single-cell methods allow us to examine thousands of genes in hundreds of individually isolated supporting cells, some of which are responding to hair cell damage.

With these voluminous datasets, we will then describe the succession of molecular changes needed to regenerate hair cells. Results from these experiments will be compared with similar experiments examining hair cell damage in mice, which like all mammals, including humans, do not regenerate hair cells.

The second project will examine whether epigenetic DNA modification (the inactivation of genes by chemical changes to the DNA) is why mice supporting cells are unable to transform into hair cells after damage to the ear. Our existing data suggests this is the case, and so a strategy for hearing restoration may involve the reversal of these epigenetic modifications.

The first project will allow us to identify the genes involved, and the second project will help us understand how to effectively manipulate those genes despite their DNA modifications—and to biologically restore hearing.

The consortium approach funded by HHF provides a unique opportunity; the collaboration of 15 outstanding hearing investigators will lead to results far more quickly than traditional projects that rely on a single investigator. All HRP investigators plan projects and interpret data arising from them, allowing us to collectively utilize our 200-plus years of experience we have studying the ear.

HHF has been able to increase HRP funding for 2017 compared with 2016—for this I am grateful. However, there are several research needs unmet. Increased funding levels would speed our deeper understanding of hair cell regeneration, which will ultimately lead us to find therapies to treat human hearing loss and tinnitus.

Most of all, we are looking to add additional scientists to HRP labs to increase productivity and significantly accelerate research progress. There is also an urgent need for more “bioinformatics” scientists to thoroughly examine our data and identify common threads buried deep within our results. In addition, the HRP has research projects that have been placed on hold until funding is found for them.

We are excited about the coming year’s planned research, and eagerly await the results. On behalf of myself and the other scientists who make up the HRP, I thank you for your investment and interest in our work. I look forward to giving you further updates.

HRP scientific director Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D., is the associate vice president for Basic Research and a professor of otolaryngology at the Oregon Hearing Research Center, and a senior scientist at the Vollum Institute, all at Oregon Health & Science University. 

We need your help in funding the exciting work of hearing and balance scientists.

To donate today to support HHF's groundbreaking research,

please visit hhf.org/donate.

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HHF Named Twice in Consumer Reports


Hearing Health Foundation is absolutely thrilled to be named—twice—in Consumer Reports’ “Best Charities for Your Donation,” published Dec. 14, 2016.

The article offers tips for finding a charity that, in its words, “really puts your money to work.” It reviewed the detailed process by which charity rating organizations Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance assess charities.

“Collectively, these groups evaluate thousands of nonprofit organizations based on how they collect and spend their money, how transparent they are to the public, and how well they’re governed,” the story says.

Using the watchdog reports, Consumer Reports listed up to five of the highest- and lowest-rated charities in 11 categories.

Hearing Health Foundation was cited as one of the nation’s five best charities—and the only one cited twice, in the categories “Blind and Impaired Hearing” and “Health.”

I like to say Hearing Health Foundation is “small yet mighty”—so it is very gratifying to get confirmation of our fiscal health from a respected publication like Consumer Reports.

During this season of giving, we are grateful for your gifts that enable us to further our mission of hearing protection, education, and research.

If you haven’t yet, and are able to give, please consider an end-of-year donation knowing that all of us at Hearing Health Foundation—staff, scientists, board members, and other advisers—are working tirelessly to make your dollars count.

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