AAAF Public Awareness Initiatives
The American Academy of Audiology and AAA Foundation strives to have tangible impact in the lives of many by helping them understand the importance of the fields of audiology and hearing and balance sciences through its programs and initiatives. Public Awareness, focused on healthy hearing and balance, hearing loss and falls prevention, and the audiology profession, is an important component of the Foundation’s mission. Over the past few years the Foundation has implemented a number of programs aimed at providing tools, resources, and information for consumers and the general public.
Turn It to the Left®
Although hearing problems are most commonly associated with aging, more than five million young people in the United States between the ages of six and 19 report some degree of noise-induced hearing (NIHL) loss. In response to the increasing prevalence of NIHL in children, the American Academy of Audiology launched a public education campaign called Turn It to the Left®. The goal was to raise public awareness about the risks of NIHL while also educating kids, parents, and teachers ways to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.
Turn It to the Left is also the name of an educational rap created for the Academy by rapper Ben Jackson of Rhythm, Rhyme, Results (www.educationalrap.com link). The rap urges young people to be aware of the noise around them and take control of the volume by “Turning It to the Left,” tht is, turn volume down by turning the volume control “to the left”!
Additional educational tools for students, parents, and teachers are available at www.turnittotheleft.org.
The DiscovEARy Zone (DZ) was the brain child of Dr. Sharon Sandridge and began in 2007 at AudiologyNOW! in Denver, CO. Dr. Sandridge has spent the past ten years shepherding this program and developing most of the materials that are now available in various media formats. The primary purpose of the DZ was to provide a ready source of educational materials for hearing conservation/hearing protection. The secondary goal was to develop and educational program that audiologists could incorporate into their busy practices or for use in their local communities to educate the public. The DiscovEARy Zone is an interactive exhibit to provide innovative early education about hearing loss prevention, and to advocate for the reduction of the incidence of noise-induced hearing loss and noise-related tinnitus. Since its first exhibition, the DiscovEARy Zone exhibit has provided valuable hearing health safety and hearing loss prevention information to a variety of receptive audiences, children and adults alike.
Some facts about noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and hearing loss prevention (HLP):
- Exposure to harmful noise can happen at any age and there is a lifetime cumulative effect of all that exposure.
- People of all ages are routinely exposed to noise, including but not limited to the following: attendance at concerts and sporting events; while engaged in leisure activities like hunting; in everyday traffic; food courts and the school cafeteria; while using personal listening devices with earbuds and/or headsets; and while working with common home tools and yard equipment.
- Four million workers go to work each day in damaging noise, ten million people in the U.S. have a noise-related hearing loss, and twenty-two million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise each year (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/stats.html)
- Three easy steps, when incorporated into a healthy hearing lifestyle, can significantly decrease NIHL:
- Turn down the sound!
- Walk away from the noise!
- Wear hearing protection!
In brief, NIHL is a pervasive problem with serious long term consequences, however, with increased public education, it is a problem that can be remediated and avoided.