Recognizing that the best way to prevent lifetime hearing loss is to reach children before they become heavy users of personal listening devices, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has sent its Buds characters as safe listening sentinels into the virtual world that nearly 3 million young 'citizens' have joined, Whyville.net.
Whyville is one of the most popular, education-focused destinations for children age eight to 15.
The Buds are visiting Whyville for the next several months, popping up throughout the Whyville landscape with fun factoids about hearing. The Buds will also lead visitors to sources of further information about hearing and noise, including links to educational games and music at www.ListenToYourBuds.org.
Part of an ongoing campaign to raise consumer awareness about the potential risk of hearing loss from personal audio technology, the characters were designed to appeal to young children. By bringing messages directly to children in a kid-friendly, online environment, ASHA's goal is to teach young people how to protect their own hearing through fact-based interaction, not nagging.
"ASHA is thrilled to be talking to these youngsters where they 'live'—we know they are already heavily involved in technology, so this is a natural fit," ASHA President Noma P. Anderson explains.
"Thanks to the financial support of the Consumer Electronics Association, we are using creative, cutting edge technology and hopefully sparking kids to think about hearing in a new way," Anderson adds.
According to Dr. James Bower, Founder and CEO of Numedeon, which developed Whyville, "After many years as Ramon in the rock/blues group 'Ramon and the K-Halls', I fully appreciate the importance of protecting one's ears from loud music. We are very pleased to be working with ASHA to make sure that our Whyville kids understand that ears are a lifetime investment."
With the increasing popularity of MP3 players, millions of adults and children are at newfound risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Listening to headphones at high volumes for extended periods of time can directly result in lifelong hearing loss. The loss may occur painlessly and gradually over time, so noise-induced hearing loss often goes unnoticed. This type of hearing damage cannot be reversed; the only treatment is hearing aids.
ASHA was among the first organizations to poll the nation about their listening habits and use of personal audio technology. More than half of high school students in the U.S. report having at least one symptom of hearing loss according to a poll that ASHA commissioned. But it's not too late to curtail further hearing loss entirely in younger kids who are just starting to use portable music players and similar devices.
It's critical that children learn good listening habits, and that parents set guidelines for headphone usage, monitor noise levels, and watch for warning signs of hearing loss. Here are three simple steps you can take to protect your children's-and your own-hearing.
- Keep the volume down. A good guide is half volume. If someone else can hear the music, it's too loud.
- Limit listening time. Give your hearing 'quiet breaks'. Damage can occur after just four songs.
- Upgrade your earbuds. Often included free in the package of a portable music player, low-quality earbuds do not isolate unwanted sounds, so users turn the volume up higher when they are in noisy environments. Earbuds should be upgraded to earphones that fit outside the ear and block out unwanted sound. You can also upgrade to earphones that fit snugly into the ear canal and do the same thing.
Parents, children and educators can find hearing information tailored to their needs at www.ListenToYourBuds.org.
About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
ASHA, located in Rockville, Maryland, is the professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 127,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists in the United States and internationally. For more information on speech, language, and hearing disorders, consumers can log on to www.asha.org or call 1-800-638-TALK.
About the "Listen To Your Buds" Campaign
ASHA's campaign is supported by the Consumer Electronics Association, Arlington, Virginia; Califone International, Inc., San Fernando, California; Pause Parent Play, Washington, D.C.; and the rock group, O.A.R.
Whyville is winner of the iParenting Media Award 2007, and is the only learning-based virtual world for today's digital kids. For eight years, the site has successfully created an environment that engages its vested 'citizens' to learn about life, while having fun. Inside Whyville, kids play, engage with activities, earn currency, socialize, learn, design, eat, dance, govern and much more. For sponsors, Whyville enables organizations to be on the inside of the virtual world, providing them with the means to truly interact with the hard-to-reach demographic of 8 to 15 year olds. Numedeon, the parent company of Whyville, was created by scientists from Caltech who combined research expertise in neuroscience with education experience to conceive of an innovative way to harness the power of the Internet for the purpose of engagement and real learning. In addition to its flagship property, Numedeon has developed a number of virtual worlds using its proprietary technology.
About the Consumer Electronics Association
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is the preeminent trade association promoting growth in the consumer technology industry through technology policy, events, research, promotion and the fostering of business and strategic relationships. CEA represents more than 2,100 corporate members involved in the design, development, manufacturing, distribution and integration of audio, video, mobile electronics, wireless and landline communications, information technology, digital imaging, home networking, multimedia and accessory products, as well as related services that are sold through consumer channels. Combined, CEA's members account for more than $140 billion in annual sales. CEA's resources are available online at ce.org, the definitive source for information about the consumer electronics industry.