Wearing earbuds or earphones is a part of life for most teens today. And for some, what sounds good loud sounds even better louder. But one in five teens develop some sort of hearing loss because of loud music and much of that attributed to ear buds or loud speakers at concerts.
When a group of Millburn-Short Hills teenagers learned those statistics, they created iTold4, a group aimed educating other children about the impact loud noise has on hearing.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 26 million Americans have Noise Induced Hearing Loss, which is caused by exposure to loud noises and is 100 percent preventable. In a national study in 2000, researchers reported that 5.2 million children 6 to 19 years old have some hearing loss directly related to noise exposure.
Some examples of noises or activities that create hearing loss are lawn mowers, leaf blowers, playing in a band, going to concerts or clubs and listening to MP3 players and iPods too loudly.
These and other sounds over 85 decibels damage the hair cells in the ears and once damaged, hair cells cannot grow back or repair, resulting in permanent hearing loss.
This was alarming to the teens and they decided more had to be done to prevent hearing loss in their generation.
Sami Vinik, a 15-year-old founder of the project, was born with a hearing loss. Hers was the result of a birth defect, and, she says, “I was born deaf and I don’t want anyone to hear like I do. Noise induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable.”
Sami knows what it’s like to live with a hearing impairment, and her friends are familiar with her experience as well. Because of that and because most children don’t realize that repetitive loud noises can cause hearing loss, the teens set out to change that.
“Together, we formed iTold4 to educate children about how to save their hearing,” said one of the project's founders, Sarah Nelson.
The idea behind the project's name is that if each person tells four people and those people tell four people and so on, they can spread the word faster.
“Last year we visited classrooms in the grade schools to simulate what it is like to have a hearing loss while educating the students about Noise Induced Hearing Loss and how to prevent it,” Sarah said.
The group advocates limiting exposure when possible, wearing ear plugs at concerts and most importantly lowering the volume on their music players.
They are spreading this word: “Change and lock so you can rock” - as in change the volume on the music players and lock the setting, so you can rock out, safely.
Before these hearing loss ambassadors leave the classroom they hand out a goodie bag with ear plugs and directions how to change the lock.
This year, the iTold4 Project is expanding its approach to reach more children. Team members are doing this by recruiting other teenagers. Some are spreading the word as mitzvah projects during their bar or bat mitzvah year, going into classrooms, attending Girl and Boy Scout meetings and speaking to other youth groups.
This week, the iTold4 Project began a fundraiser, selling green, iTold4 wristbands that will act as a coupon during the month of April. Anyone wearing the iTold4 bracelet will receive a 10 percent discount at the following stores: Oscar's Deli, Bagel Chateau, La Strada, UnDeFind, Splurge Bakery, Roxy Shoes, Coco, The House, and Oh-My-Gifts. The wristbands may be purchased at the house, Oh-My-Gifts, the middle and high schools, and at the group’s website: www.itold4.com