Music

How to Create a Healthy Hearing Environment for Children

By Alyson McBryde

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“How many times do I have to repeat myself?” If you’re a parent or guardian, chances are you’ve said this to your child before. Indeed, a part of parenting is repeating yourself―but what if it becomes part of a bigger issue?

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated “1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound in noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars, and sporting events.”

The WHO indicates “unsafe levels of sound can be, for example, exposure to in excess of 85 decibels (dB) for eight hours of 100 dB for 15 minutes.” Exposure to dangerously loud sounds could damage the sensitive structures of our inner ear and lead to permanent hearing loss. Here’s the thing about noise-induced hearing loss: it is 100% preventable.  

As a parent or guardian, you can implement fun and effective hearing loss prevention activities and strategies like these:

Lead a Learning Experience
Look for science videos and activities that demonstrate how sound, the ear, and hearing work. Great examples include Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)’s interactive, captioned video, Kids Health, and The Magic School Bus.

Watch Out for Noisy Toys
A study on sounds emitted by children’s toys found “the average sound levels of the various toys were 106.8 dB measured at a point nearest the sound source,” according to ASHA. Use a decibel-measuring app to check out your kids’ toys before they play.

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Limit Time with Electronics
NBC News reports: “Each new generation of teenagers has found a new technology to blast music – from the bulky headphones of the 1960s to the handheld Sony Walkmans of the 1980s. Today’s young people are listening longer, more than twice as long as previous generations.” Remember when our elders told us to “go outside and play”? Encourage your kids to do the same.

Turn Down the Volume
Enforce the 60-60 rule: Allow your child to listen at 60% volume for 60 minutes at a time. Look into apps that allow you to set parental controls on volume levels and encourage your kids to take a break from nonstop sound! 

Beware of Noise Levels at Live Events
Did you know a live ballgame can reach 120 decibels? Live sporting events can be extremely dangerous for little ears. The same goes for live music shows. Bring along a pair of foam or custom-made earplugs!

Keep Those Little Ears Warm
If you live in a place with cold winters, make sure you kids have earmuffs or hats that cover their ears. Cold air may affect hearing with exostosis, known as “surfer’s ear,” which happens when abnormal bone growths interfere with the auditory process.

Swim Safely
During the summer, while attending swim lessons, or on vacation, protect your kids’ ears with swim plugs. Swim plugs help to prevent swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, caused by bacteria inside the ear canal, which can lead to trouble hearing.

Treat Ear Infections Immediately
Kids experience ear infections far more regularly than adults due to the size and positioning of their Eustachian tubes. Seeking immediate treatment from an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist for otitis media―ear infections―could help prevent hearing loss in kids.

Invest in Earplugs
Whether they are made of generic foam or are custom-molded to fit in their ears, earplugs are a great barrier between little ears and dangerous levels of sound. Carry a pair wherever you go―you never know when you may need them! 

Get Their Hearing Tested
Hearing health should be treated no differently than any other part of your kids’ overall health. In the same way your kids get a full physical and vision test annually, build a hearing test into the routine! Hearing tests keep track of your kids’ hearing abilities, and if anything changes, your hearing health professional can help find a solution.

Alyson McBryde leads the customer success team for HearStore.

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Hearing Loss Lives with Me

By Sonya Daniel

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I was born with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. I didn’t know the official term for it until 2008. When I was a kid in elementary school I passed every hearing test that the mothers in the PTA administered. I was a pretty clever little girl. I learned that every test has a visible “tell” and knew how to guess “right” on all of them. I never wanted to fail any test. I learned to read lips, and assumed everyone heard that annoying ringing constantly. That, of course isn’t true.

The tinnitus became too overwhelming to deal with everyday. I hadn’t had my ears tested since I was little, so I didn’t know what to expect. It was much worse than I had ever imagined it would be. And now it had a name. I left the audiologist knowing at some point I’d be completely deaf. But, no one knows when that might be. I was a mother to three young boys. I wondered how much longer I’d hear, “Mommy, I love you.” Or If they’d hold out long enough to hear their grown-up man voices. How much longer until I couldn’t hear music?

Music is my passion. In fact, it’s my chosen profession. I never remember wanting to do anything but be a musician in some capacity. My dad played the guitar. My mother said when I was little I would sit in front of him and touch his guitar and I would stand in front of the stereo and touch the speakers. I suppose I was trying to “hear” the music. I knew I’d go to college and major in music as a vocalist. I knew I wanted to share my love for music and teach others.

College was a very difficult and stressful time. There was a course called “Sight Singing and Ear Training” required to complete my Bachelor’s in Music. I mean, come on! Ear training? I struggled. Professors struggled to teach me. Some never gave up because it was apparent I wasn’t going anywhere.

I did get to teach music to every level. I can’t do that anymore, but I still do music everyday. Sometimes in life you have to know that there are things that your body just won’t let you do. I’d like to be a 6’0” tall, blonde supermodel, too. My body said “no” to that and I think I’m ok.      
Living with tinnitus and hearing loss can be overwhelming and difficult. I’m not as afraid of living this way as I used to be. Everyone has a thing. This is just mine. I like to say I don’t live with hearing loss; it lives with me.

My journey has brought me to the cochlear implant. I’m a candidate in the preliminary stages of that process. Technology changes so fast it’s hard to keep up. My current devices have stronger receiver tubes and ear molds.

That’s just my journey with my ears. My life isn’t defined by or consumed with my ears, although it’s felt that way at times. I’m constantly learning and growing. I’m getting stronger with each high and low I face. But, isn’t that just life?

Sonya Daniel is a musician/teacher, writer, and voiceover artist. She is a participant in HHF’s “Faces of Hearing Loss” campaign.

Receive updates on life-changing hearing research and resources by subscribing to HHF's free quarterly magazine and e-newsletter.

 
 
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The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

By Alycia Gordan

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June is Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month and Hearing Health Foundation would like to shine light on the effects untreated hearing loss can have on our brains and memory. Hearing loss is often linked with dementia, and research is being conducted to establish the exact link between the two. Evidence suggests that by treating hearing loss, the risk of dementia can be mitigated.

Dementia is a medical term that is used to describe a host of symptoms, characterized by a deterioration in a patient’s cognitive abilities. The degeneration of brain cells causes neurons to stop functioning, leading to a series of dysfunctions.

A person may have dementia if at least two of his mental faculties are affected: the loss of memory and focus; difficulty communicating; short or interrupted attention spans; impaired judgment; or an inability to perform everyday tasks.

Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of otolaryngology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, conducted a study in 2011 in which the mental abilities of 639 cognitively stable individuals were supervised regularly for 12 to 18 years. The results indicated that volunteers with normal hearing were much less susceptible to acquiring dementia while those with mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss were two, three, and five times more susceptible to the disorder, respectively.

Another study conducted by Lin in 2013 involved observing the cognitive abilities of 1,984 older adults over six years. The research concluded that older adults with hearing loss tended to experience 30 to 40 percent accelerated cognitive dysfunction and were at a higher risk of developing dementia.

What Is the Cause?

Since the exact link between hearing loss and dementia is still a mystery, there are theories about how the former may aggravate the latter.

One of the theories suggests that if the brain struggles to cope with degraded sounds, its resources are allocated to processing these sounds and this “cognitive load” causes a decrease in overall cognitive functioning. Moreover, hearing loss accelerates atrophy in the cerebrum which is not exclusive to processing sound as it also plays a role in memory. In addition, it is speculated that social isolation that results from hearing loss causes stress and depression and exacerbates cognitive deterioration.

What Is the Solution?

Not many studies have been conducted to check the influence of treating hearing loss for treating dementia. However, the studies that have been conducted so far do provide considerable hope.

One way to improve profound hearing loss is receiving cochlear implants. French researcher Isabelle Mosnier, M.D., of the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, evaluated the effect of cochlear implants on cognitive functioning in 94 elderly people who had profound deafness (in at least one ear).

Mosnier found that hearing rehabilitation improved not only cognitive functioning of the elderly, but their speech perception as well.

The most direct link between auditory impairment and memory loss is the brain. Thus, any stimulus that helps the brain remain alert will keep the person active too. Hence, researchers are considering the use of music therapy to restore cognitive functions in people who suffer from memory loss.           

Concetta Tomaino, a cofounder of the Institute for Music and Neurological Function, found that music stimulates parts of the brain made inactive by dementia. In a pilot study, music therapy sessions were conducted with 45 individuals with chronic dementia and the results showed that neurological and cognitive abilities improved significantly for those in the music group.

This research shows there are techniques that can aid individuals with dementia and hearing loss. If you or a loved one has hearing problems, please see a hearing health professional to get a hearing test in order to potentially prevent future cognitive issues. 

Alycia Gordan writes for Brain Blog.

Receive updates on life-changing hearing research and resources by subscribing to HHF's free quarterly magazine and e-newsletter.

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

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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.”

ABOUT THE LES PAUL FOUNDATION:
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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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.

References

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

http://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/ASHA/Publications/cicsd/2016F-Music-Induced-Hearing-Loss.pdf

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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Enjoy Summer Concert Season Right

By the Better Hearing Institute

With at least another month-and-a-half left of summer concert season, we thought it would be a good time to remind music lovers to pack the earplugs. It’s an easy and smart way to make sure you can enjoy those tunes for years to come.

Bringing earplugs to that next concert is more than a good idea, it should be a must, says the Better Hearing Institute (BHI). Millennials and teens especially should think twice about music volume because data show that hearing loss is on the rise in these age groups, which means they’re permanently losing some of their hearing at younger ages.

But take heart. Earplugs really can help. One study, carried out in conjunction with an outdoor music festival in Amsterdam last fall, found that festival-goers who wore earplugs were roughly five times less likely to have some temporary hearing loss than those who didn’t wear them. The earplug-users also were less likely to suffer from tinnitus afterwards.

Any sounds at or above 85 dBA for a prolonged period of time can be unsafe. The sounds at that Dutch music festival were at 100 decibels, pretty consistently, for 4-and-a-half hours. At that sound level, hearing damage can occur in just 15 minutes.

Luckily, earplugs are pretty easy to come by. Disposable earplugs, made of foam or silicone, usually can be found at local pharmacies. They’re practical because you can still hear music and conversation when they’re in your ears. But when they fit snuggly, they’re effective in adequately blocking out dangerously loud sounds.

The impact of noise on our ears

We hear sound when delicate hair cells in our inner ear vibrate, creating nerve signals that the brain understands as sound. But just as we can overload an electrical circuit, we also can overload these vibrating hair cells. Loud noise damages these delicate hair cells, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss and often tinnitus (ringing in the ears). The cells that are the first to be damaged or die are those that vibrate most quickly—those that allow us to hear higher-frequency sounds clearly.

Warning signs of too much noise

If you have to shout over the noise to be heard by someone within arm’s length, the noise is probably in the dangerous range. Here are the warning signs:

  • You have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area.

  • You hear ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears immediately after exposure to noise.

  • You suddenly have difficulty understanding speech after exposure to noise; you can hear people talking but can’t understand them.

Repeated exposure to loud noise, over an extended period of time, presents serious risks to hearing health.

The content for this blog post originated in a press release issued by The Better Hearing Institute on July 19, 2016.

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Hearing Loss and Music: A Curse and/or a Blessing

By Kathi Mestayer

I’ve always paid a lot of attention to music. When I was a kid, we (mother plus four daughters) would sing on car trips. Occasionally, my father would stealthily sneak his hand behind his ears, switching off his hearing aids. I never told.

As my hearing got worse, though, things got… odd. One day, in the car, singing along with a tune I’d known forever, I noticed a little dissonance. I stopped singing, and listened more closely, finally realizing that I was not singing in tune. I eventually got back in the groove, but it took some effort. The same problem comes up when I strum on the guitar, counting on the chords to give me the starting note. It’s not as easy as it used to be, but if I stick with it, the sweet spot will reveal itself.

Kathi's Flute Pitch

Kathi's Flute Pitch

It kept happening, once in awhile. When I finally thought to mention it to my audiologist, she said, “That’s pitch distortion. It’s pretty common in hard-of-hearing people.” Oh, great.

Making Things Up

If only that was the end of it. My imagination has had a field day, too. Once, while the vacuum cleaner was running, I heard it “playing” baroque music. At least it wasn’t hip-hop. And there was the time my husband and I were in a noisy restaurant, with a popular rock song blasting away. “Oh, I love this song!” he said. “Yeah, me, too,” I chimed in. Then we realized that we were each hearing a different song. Guess who was right.

Sforzando!

That’s the musical term for a sudden, forceful attack on a note or chord. Because hearing loss is often accompanied by recruitment (when an unexpected, sudden, noise triggers your startle response and cranks up the perceived volume), sforzando can definitely make it happen.

An example would be when a pianist ends a piece by suddenly hammering down on a chord. It can cause me to utter a startled “ack!” which is audible to both the musician and the audience. As happened a few weeks ago. After the concert ended, I went up to the pianist and confessed. “That was you?” he said.

“Yes,” I explained, “it’s called recruitment, and it’s a symptom of hearing loss. I hope it wasn’t too annoying.”

“Oh, no problem. I’ll take that over somebody in the audience falling asleep any day,” he graciously explained.

So, a happy(ish) ending. That time. It will happen again, undoubtedly. Hearing loss is an adventure, when you like it and when you don’t.

Watch for a related story on how hearing loss affects how music is heard in our Summer issue of Hearing Health magazine.

Subscribe now for your FREE print copy!

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Engineering Music to Sound Better With Cochlear Implants

By Columbia University Medical Center

When hearing loss becomes so severe that hearing aids no longer help, a cochlear implant not only amplifies sounds but also lets people hear speech clearly.

Music is a different story.

“I’ve pretty much given up listening to music and being able to enjoy it,” says Prudence Garcia-Renart, a musician who gave up playing the piano a few years ago.

“I’ve had the implant for 15 years now and it has done so much for me. Before I got the implant, I was working but I could not use a phone, I needed somebody to take notes for me at meetings, and I couldn’t have conversations with more than one person. I can now use a phone, I recognize people’s voices, I go to films, but music is awful.”

Cochlear implants are designed to process speech, which is a much simpler auditory signal compared with music. People with severe hearing loss also have lost auditory neurons that transmit signals to the brain.

It’s not possible to tweak the settings of the implant to compensate for the loss of auditory neurons, says Anil Lalwani, MD, director of the Columbia Cochlear Implant Program. “It’s unrealistic to expect people with that kind of nerve loss to process the complexity of a symphony, even with an implant.”

Instead, Dr. Lalwani and members of Columbia’s Cochlear Implant Music Engineering Group is trying to reengineer and simplify music to be more enjoyable for listeners with cochlear implants. “You don’t necessarily need the entire piece to enjoy the music,” Dr. Lalwani says. “Even though a song may have very complex layers, you can sometimes just enjoy the vocals, or you can just enjoy the instruments.”

Right now the group is testing different arrangements of musical compositions to learn which parts of the music are most important for listener enjoyment. “It’s not the same for somebody who has normal hearing,” Dr. Lalwani says, “and that’s what we have to learn.”

Down the road, Dr. Lalwani thinks software will be able to take an original piece of music and reconfigure it for listeners or give the listener the ability to engineer their own music.

“Our eventual goal, though, is to compose music for people with cochlear implants based on what we’ve learned,” Dr. Lalwani says. “Original pieces of music that will possibly have less rhythmic instruments, less reverb, possibly more vocals—something that is actually designed for them.”

The study is titled, “Music Engineering as a Novel Strategy for Enhancing Music Enjoyment in the Cochlear Implant Recipient.” The other contributors are: Gavriel D. Kohlberg, Dean M. Mancuso, and Divya A. Chari.

This blog was reposted with the permission of Columbia University Medical Center

Anil K. Lalwani, M.D. is the Head of Hearing Health Foundation's Council of Scientific Trustees.

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Fly

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.
Visit
chillkechil.com to listen to samples and purchase.

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Les Paul, Wizard of Waukesha

By Sue Baker

Les Paul often said he learned everything he needed to know while growing up in Waukesha. I met Les Paul when I worked at the Waukesha County Museum, and wanted to put together an exhibit about him. We became good friends for what would be the last 10 years of his life (he died in 2009), and these are just some of the stories he told me.

Lester Polsfuss was born June 9, 1915, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, a city 20 miles west of Milwaukee, to a family with strong German roots. From the time he was a preschooler, Les was encouraged by his mother, Evelyn, to entertain. Les recounted how when he was 5 years old the Rotarians would lift him to a tabletop during their meetings so he could sing for them. By the time he was 8, Les disassembled a harmonica he was given to see how it worked. After reassembling it, he filled the family home with the sounds of endless harmonica practicing.

Radio was brand new when Les was growing up and he couldn’t get enough of listening to the guitar-playing country singers. When the singers came to town, Evelyn took Les to see them perform. Les wanted to be just like the guitar player Pie Plant Pete, and when the performer came to Waukesha not only was Les in the audience, he was dressed just like Pie Plant Pete, who performed in “Showboat” in a sailor suit. In fact, years later Les changed his performance name from Red Hot Red to Rhubarb Red. (“Pie plant” is another name for rhubarb.)

But playing his guitar and harmonica, and singing and telling jokes, was not enough for Rhubarb Red. As a teen, Les loved his guitar but he was sure it could sound better. After inventing a harmonica holder so his hands were free, Les pondered how to improve his guitar so he could hear just the vibration of the strings. So Les stuffed socks, rags, and a tablecloth inside the guitar. The sound was different but not quite what he wanted. Next, he filled the guitar with plaster of Paris—and that was the end of his guitar. 

Les wanted the densest material he could find to build a guitar so that only the strings would vibrate. He tried a two-foot piece of discarded iron train rail. He stretched a single guitar string down the length of the rail and plucked it. What sustain! It was crisp and just the string vibrated and it vibrated a long time. It was exactly what he wanted. He ran to share his great discovery with his mother. The usually supportive Evelyn looked at her son and said, “The day you see a cowboy riding a horse with a piece of rail…” Les knew she was right, but he also knew he had the beginning of something big.

Teenage Les was playing all over Waukesha and the surrounding area. He wanted to hear what his audiences were hearing so he built a disk-recording machine using a flywheel from his dad’s car dealership, a rubber belt from his dentist, and aluminum disks for recording. By now, Les was performing on the radio and his mother would capture his performances on his recording machine. 

Just outside of Waukesha was Beekman’s Barbeque, a popular destination. Les became a regular, playing for tips. Les was constantly honing his guitar playing. He built his own amplifier using parts of his mother’s telephone and radio. When someone in the back said they couldn’t hear his guitar, Les created his first electric guitar with parts from the family’s phonograph and another radio.

In the mid-1930s Les was playing country (hillbilly) music on Chicago radio stations as Rhubarb Red. He spent his nights learning jazz at clubs in Chicago and soon was performing with the musicians. It was in Chicago that he took the name Les Paul when he played jazz.

As a teen, Les played at Waukesha’s band shell, now known as the Les Paul Performance Center. It is being renovated in time for the centennial anniversary of his birthday this June 9.

Learn more about the legendary Les Paul and the launch of the Les Paul Ambassador program, a partnership with Hearing Health Foundation to spread the message of hearing protection. The Les Paul Ambassdaors are guitarist Lou Pallo, saxophonist Chris Potter, jazz pianist John Colianni, and DJ and composer Chill Kechil who was in our magazine as well as in our blogFor the full list of events to celebrate Les Paul’s 100th birthday, see les-paul.com.

Sue Baker is the program director at the Les Paul Foundation

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