Free ‘Ears & Beers’ Workshop to Open Up Conversation about Hearing Conservation

“This is an important conversation to have,” says audiologist and musician Dr. Greg Horton. “Knowledge is power: educating and empowering musicians to take ownership of their hearing wellness and incorporate hearing into their annual health care routine.”

Horton, board certified audiologist at Rochester Hearing & Speech Center, will be offering an interactive workshop at Three Heads Brewing. The free affair takes place on Sunday, May 19 at 1 p.m. Attendees can meet with Horton and his colleagues to obtain a free hearing screening, discounted earplugs, and ear mold impressions for ordering custom ear plugs.

“This event is geared towards musicians and people who work in and around music industry – bartenders, security, photographers, and promoters. We’ll cover the science of sound, how prolonged noise exposure can affect our hearing, and how people can protect themselves.”

While most industries are regulated by oversight agencies which promote and enforce workplace safety, the music industry remains unregulated. What’s more, hearing conservation something that most people are uncomfortable talking about, or acting upon. Horton said that people often wait years after suspecting hearing loss to do something about it.

Compounding these barriers is the lack of expertise in audiology for those in the music industry. There are only a handful of audiologists in the country who work exclusively with musicians. Horton studied under a couple of these experts when he was earning his doctorate in audiology at Northwestern University.

“Working with musicians is different than garden-variety audiology,” Horton says. He adds that while most audiologists love working with musicians, when polled, the majority of them say they need more training in this area.

Professional musicians invest their time in practicing and their money in equipment, but few make the effort to protect their most valuable asset – their hearing. Horton draws a comparison to a professional athlete being assessed by doctors for peak performance. “Why as a musician, wouldn’t you do the same thing?” Asks Horton.

Few people in the music industry receive annual screenings to monitor changes in hearing. Hearing screenings are usually covered by health insurance, but those who are under-insured or uninsured can look for free screenings at places like health fairs and festivals.

“Most musicians experience just generic foam earplugs, which are not designed to sound good. People don’t realize there are plugs that can maintain the fidelity of the music, with the ability to keep you at safe exposure.” This is an area where the proverbial ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. “People don’t want to spend $200 on a pair of custom ear plugs, but it sure beats $6,000 on hearing aids.”

Protection goes beyond wearing hearing protection. It’s about awareness of dosage of noise exposure. That dosage can be reduced with things as simple as adjustments to stage plots and the position and distance from sound-emitting equipment.

“I’ll be dispelling some myths. Like ‘Oh, I don’t play in a metal band, so I don’t need to worry about hearing loss.’ Volume doesn’t discriminate. It all comes down to dosage,” Horton explains. “Think about the violin player that’s been classically trained, putting hundreds upon hundreds hours into playing. A violin by itself may not be loud, but it’s pretty close to your ear, and if you’re someone who’s practicing 6 to 8 hours a day, you’re at risk.”

As a life-long music lover and musician, hearing conservation is a subject Horton is passionate about. If you’ve ever seen Horton’s band Periodic Table of Elephants, you’ll recognize him as the one passing out complimentary ear plugs to members of the audience.

This event is made possible with sponsorship from Three Heads Brewing and Rochester Hearing & Speech.

Three Heads Brewing on Atlantic Avenue is a hot spot for live music and home to a popular Thursday night musician residency. You can find more details and RSVP for this free event here.

Rochester Hearing & Speech a non-profit organization serving the region for the past 97 years. Their offices are conveniently located throughout Monroe County in Brighton, Greece, and Webster. For more information about this event or to schedule an appointment, email ghorton@rhsc.org.

Poster design by Ben Frazier