Duke audiologists working to help curb hearing loss in music students

Durham County News

Students at Durham School of the Arts are some of the most talented young musicians in our community. But, with so much time spent practicing, they could be putting their hearing at risk. 

Now, Duke audiologists are working to change that. 

At the Durham School of the Arts, band students nurture their passion for music.

“I originally got into it because I was a shy kid and I wanted to be in the back of the band,” said drummer Toby Falvo. 

Even if he was shy, he certainly didn’t choose a quiet instrument. After 10 years of practicing and performing, all that drumming can take a toll on the ears. Toby’s ears ring sometimes, as do his classmates’. 

“It’s never really bothered me that much, but I’m scared if it continues it eventually will,” said guitarist, Olivia Fernandez.

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“Children this age, they are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss,” explained Krista Roper, a pediatric audiologist at Duke.

But she and other pediatric audiologists are working to change that. Duke’s Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology recently received an endowment to provide musicians ear plugs for more than 30 students at the school of the arts. 

“We can kind of give back, protect their ears in the long term because we know noise-induced hearing loss is a cumulative over years,” Roper said.  

The students received the plugs, which were fitted specifically for them, and tested them out as they practiced.

“It was cool because I thought I wouldn’t be able to hear myself, but I could I could hear myself.  It’s really awesome, and I could hear the people around me, they were just quieter,” Fernandez said.  

Students will be able to pursue their musical passion without risk to their hearing now and long after they leave the classroom.

“I hope to play music the rest of my life,” Falvo said.

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