Hearing protection


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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How Hearing Loss Affects Other Aspects of Your Health

By Patricia Sarmiento

A few years ago, my dad began experiencing hearing loss. He worked in loud factories all his life. And while in recent years he began wearing ear protection, I think there were many days on the job where he didn’t use any. As he grew older, all that time without ear protection took its toll.

Prior to his experiences with hearing loss, I must admit that I didn’t know much about it. As he began going through the necessary steps, like getting fitted for hearing aids, I began to look into how hearing loss can affect our overall health. Here’s what I found:

Falls: This was my first area of concern when my dad’s hearing loss was diagnosed. I knew that our ears play an important role in our balance. However, I was surprised to see how significantly one’s chances of falling increased with their hearing loss. WhittierHearing.com cites a study that found that even just mild hearing loss meant you were “three times more likely to have a history of falling.” Of course, the older someone is the more dangerous these falls can be. My dad was lucky in that his hearing loss didn’t ever seem to affect him in this way. But if you have a loved one who has fallen or is experiencing balance issues, get their hearing checked!

Depression. We actually began suspecting that my dad was experiencing hearing loss long before he began seeking treatment for it. I think he was simply too proud to admit that he was having problems. We had to repeat ourselves to him and sometimes at family gatherings he would withdraw altogether. It was when he stopped going to his weekly Men’s Breakfast at our church that we knew something was going on.

While my dad received treatment before his hearing loss really began to take a toll on his mental health, I can definitely see how it could lead to depression. People experiencing hearing loss may experience poorer quality of life, isolation and reduced social activity.

Dementia. Through my research, I found out that in older adults there is a connection between hearing loss and dementia and Alzheimer’s. Those with mild hearing impairment are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia compared to those with normal hearing. The risk increases three-fold for those with moderate hearing loss, and five-fold for those with severe impairment. It isn’t yet clear what causes the connection, but the article says some researchers believe it may result from those with hearing loss straining “to decode sounds,” which may take its toll on the brain.

So, what can you do to protect your hearing? I’d like to suggest going for a swim. Here’s why: This guide on swimming and heart health notes what an excellent cardiovascular and full body workout swimming can be. That’s important because there have been many studies showing a connection between heart health and hearing. Yet another reason to be sure you’re getting plenty of exercise!

Patricia Sarmiento loves swimming and running. She channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics. She played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their Shih Tzu in Maryland.

See our Hearing Health story, “Have a Hearing Loss, Have Another Health Issue?” for more information about health conditions associated with hearing loss.

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HHF's National Junior Board Raises Over $60,000 at 2nd Annual A Summer Soiree Event

By Tara Guastella

HHF Board Chair Shari Eberts presents Partner for Hearing Health award to Regal's Chris Chromey-Marquis

HHF Board Chair Shari Eberts presents Partner for Hearing Health award to Regal's Chris Chromey-Marquis

This past Monday night, HHF’s National Junior Board hosted its second annual “A Summer Soiree” event to benefit a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus. Held at the restaurant Ainsworth Park in New York City, nearly 200 attendees enjoyed cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, raffles, and a fun photo booth. The event raised more than $60,000, a portion of which will be allocated to naming an Emerging Research Grant.


Regal Entertainment Group was presented with the annual Partner for Hearing Health Award for its commitment to people living with hearing impairment. Regal is dedicated to providing solutions for hearing impaired movie-goers and showcased a pair of newly released closed captioning glasses at the event.

HHF CEO Claire Schultz provided remarks at the event and shared her enthusiastic support of the Junior Board members. “It was so encouraging to see such a fantastic turnout at the Soiree and the interest in our work to cure hearing loss and tinnitus,” says Schultz. “I am thrilled to continue working with the Junior Board to further our mission.”

ACS Customs, a provider of custom-fit hearing protection and in-ear monitors for musicians, was also present and provided custom earmolds for attendees.

National Junior Board President Michael Kolodny also spoke before the crowd. “Hearing research is very important to my family since my daughter was born with bilateral hearing loss and currently wears cochlear implants,” he says. “I am so encouraged by the groundbreaking research that HHF funds and I am excited to support the cause of preventing and curing hearing loss and tinnitus.”

HHF appreciates the support from Regal as well as additional event sponsors UBS, Advanced Bionics, Legendary Pictures, Macquarie Capital, ACS, Blue Moon, and DASHA Wellness.

View more event photos on our Facebook page.

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Protect Your Ears (and Health) on St. Patrick's Day

By Yishane Lee

St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of Ireland’s patron saint, who is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. (The three-leaf clover is allegedly how he explained the Holy Trinity.) These days, the holiday is, for better or worse, associated with heavy drinking, and at the risk of dampening the festivities, we thought we should remind readers of the dangers of consuming excessive alcohol and hearing loss.

German researchers reported in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research that lifelong alcohol consumption damages the brain. Specifically, it leads to brain shrinkage. (Alzheimer’s disease has also been linked to brain tissue shrinkage.)

The disturbing news was that social drinkers with a lighter consumption of alcohol were just at risk as people who drank heavily, although more research is needed. To do their study, the scientists measured brain currents called brainstem auditory evoked potentials (BAEPs) to assess central auditory pathways in a group of 38 men who were undergoing tumor removal or plastic surgery.

Separately, a British report in the journal BMC Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders found that drinking alcohol blunts lower frequencies—which happen to be the ones you need the most to understand speech.

Combine this with the difficulty people with hearing loss have mastering the “cocktail-party effect”—the ability to discern one person’s speech in the presence of a lot of background noise—and no wonder large, celebratory gatherings involving alcohol are a minefield for people with hearing loss as well as for those trying to protect their hearing. In other words, if you’re on your third or fourth Guinness and can’t understand the Irish bloke shouting about shamrocks (foreign accents are tricky, too!) in a crowded pub, have a tall glass of water next round.

There are yet more risks. Drinking alcohol also causes your blood vessels to expand. This puts you at risk for tinnitus. However, there has also been a hearing-protective effect ascribed to drinking red wine (or eating red grapes). This is due to the presence of resveratrol, a substance found in the skins of red grapes.

The bottom line? There’s no reason not to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a pint of Guinness, but as the saying goes, everything in moderation.

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Westone Audio Products to Donate a Portion of Every Sale to HHF

By Tara Guastella

We are excited to share that Westone, the leader in high performance audio, in-ear monitoring technology, and hearing protection, has announced its support of HHF and HHF's work to cure hearing loss and tinnitus.

Westone will be donating a portion of every sale of all Westone Audio products to HHF through 2014.

"We are extremely excited to partner with Hearing Health Foundation and help support its efforts in hearing research, hearing protection, and a search for a cure to hearing loss," says John F. Lowrey, the vice president of the Colorado-based company’s audio division.

"We are committing significant resources to the Hearing Health Foundation with an initial gift and continuous commitment to donating a portion of each sale of all our audio products to their research,” Lowrey adds. “Westone Audio is committed to delivering the best audio and protection available to customers and we want to support HHF's efforts to find a cure for those who have already experienced hearing loss."

"Noise-induced hearing loss is 100 preventable preventable,” says Andrea Boidman, HHF’s executive director. “Westone is known for being a leader in the hearing care and preservation field and we're excited to work together to achieve the same goal—providing hearing loss solutions. We are so grateful for the support we have already received from Westone and its ongoing efforts for our cause."

If you are looking for a new pair of earphones, headphones, or ear protection, consider Westone Audio Products and you’ll also be showing your support for a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus.

Read more in Westone’s announcement about its support of HHF.

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Veterans' biggest health concern involves hearing damage

Hearing Health Foundation, the leading non-profit funder of hearing research, remains committed to the Americans serving in the U.S. armed forces who return home suffering from tinnitus (ringing in the ear) and hearing loss. At least 60 percent of soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan report hearing problems due to noise exposure experienced during their time of service; surprisingly, hearing loss and tinnitus are more common than post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hearing loss and tinnitus aren’t new to the military, found San Diego writer and editor Elizabeth Stump, whose research contributed to the content of this article. John Ayers, 79, of Texas was informed at the age of 25 that he had suffered from hearing loss due to his time in the U.S. Air Force preparing B-47 jet bombers to fly combat missions.

“Earplugs were required only for those who worked on the flight line and next to the aircraft,” he says. “Flying at 10,000 feet, the engine roar permeated every part of my body. The droning of the engines made the entire airplane frame vibrate, making it difficult to sleep; hearing other people talk was impossible. It was several days before my hearing returned to normal.”

“Hearing loss is truly a hidden disability, and our aim is to address significant gaps in the military’s ability to prevent or mitigate, and then treat this type of injury,” says Col. Mark Packer, the interim acting executive director of the Department of Defense’s Hearing Center of Excellence and an Air Force neurotologist.

For a variety of reasons, hearing protection for the military remains limited. Hearing Health Foundation strongly advocates using hearing protection in all situations with high noise levels, but while earplugs can protect against noises that reach 80 to 85 decibels, they can’t protect fully against explosions and firefights that reach intensely dangerous levels of up to 180 decibels.  Some active duty servicemen and women also worry that using earplugs will prevent them from hearing important tactical instructions.

Nathan Beltzee, 35, of New Jersey, served for 11 years in the Army and Air Force. He suffered hearing loss as a direct result of gunfire and loud jet engines.

“I have 40 percent hearing loss in my left ear and 30 percent in my right ear,” Beltzee says. “I left the service because of my hearing problems. I was afraid to ever fire a gun again or to be in a situation where I would be exposed to small arms fire or explosions that would make the ringing worse."

There is currently no cure for the noise-induced hearing loss experienced by armed forces, but through the Hearing Restoration Project, Hearing Health Foundation has a goal of a real, biological cure for hearing loss within the next decade.  The cure for hearing loss would help people like Ayers and Beltzee regain hearing lost as a result of their military service.

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