A Lifetime of Healthy Listening: Kelly C. Educates Young People about Protecting Their Ears from Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
For her Gold Award project, Kelly C., from Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida, partnered with Ear Peace: Save Your Hearing Foundation to teach young people about protect their ears from Noise-Induced Hearing Loss or NIHL, a painless, progressive and permanent health problem that is also entirely preventable. More than a billion teens are currently at risk of suffering from hearing loss caused by their personal audio devices and attending loud events like concerts and sports games, but the lack of awareness is astounding.
After completing the foundation’s Dangerous Decibels hearing conservation curriculum and becoming an official ambassador for the cause, Kelly created powerful educational videos about the epidemic, and aimed at teens and music educators, as well as a brochure and posters for use in her high school, and in pediatricians’ offices in Florida and across the country.
She also taught the Dangerous Decibels curriculum to fourth graders at a local elementary school, and inspired her band director to give a presentation on the topic in conjunction with her and the Ear Piece foundation at the 2017 Florida Music Educators (FMEA) statewide conference in Tampa, Florida. Kelly even coordinated her high school’s participation in the foundation’s Protect-a-Band Program which provided band students with $2800 worth of musician’s silicone ear plugs for hearing protection.
Now Kelly represents Girl Scouts across the country, and will keep spreading the word about NIHL in teens to protect their hearing for a lifetime of healthy listening.
Q: Why did you choose this topic for your Gold Award Project?
A: This topic resonated with me as a teen, as lead vocalist for my high school’s jazz band, and as a student on track for a career in medicine. Musicians are especially at risk due to the many hours they spend practicing their instruments. And most young people won’t notice it at first until the problem is very advanced. One in five teens in the U.S. now has permanent hearing damage by age 19, and the root cause is simply a lack of awareness.
Although we teach young children to protect their eyes, and use sunscreen, bike helmets, seatbelts, and other safety measures, there is an alarming lack of awareness of the need to teach young people to protect their hearing. Even more surprising, many doctors are unaware of the magnitude of the problem, too.
I feel it is very important to get the word out about this silent epidemic in my community and around the world, because early hearing loss has both short and long-term consequences for health, education, employment, and relationships, including early onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, which can be fatal.
Q: How has your project been successful, and how have you worked to
ensure it is sustainable?
A: First, the Protect-a-Band (PAB) Program my school’s band is part of will now be expanded to two other area high schools.
Then, the five short videos I produced, including four video interviews (two teachers and two doctors), and a video skit, “Anything Goes Pizza,” illustrating the problem of NIHL in young people, are all on the Ear Peace Foundation’s YouTube Channel and website. They have also been announced on their social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), and can be used in future workshops and in the classroom.
As part of my project, I also taught 25 fourth graders about hearing protection and encouraged them to tell their families. And the Florida Music Association’s (FMEA) presentation I helped with was given to 15 teachers representing approximately 1,500 to 2,500 students around the state.
My educational brochure contains my video YouTube address, will also be used by the Ear Peace Foundation in their training workshops, and has even been posted by Miami Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) on their region nine website.
My posters have also been adopted by the foundation, placed in my school and sent statewide, along with my brochure, to pediatricians’ offices and children’s hospitals for placement in waiting and exam rooms to raise awareness of NIHL among parents and teens. The foundation is partnering with me to distribute these posters in a nationwide campaign and publish names of participating offices in the Miami Herald.
A Feb. 27, 2018 news article highlighted my project helping further spread the word; this article was reposted on social media by MDCPS and my school’s Parent-Teacher Association. Finally, my Girl Scout council recently interviewed me as one of three Girl Scouts whose projects will be featured in a new video about the Gold Award and Girl Scouting, which will further help spread the word about NIHL in teens.
Q: What skills did completing your Gold Award give you for the
A: My planned career in the medical field, either in surgery or emergency medicine, will take leadership, determination and follow-through to solve problems. This project has allowed me to develop those qualities by taking on a big issue and thinking of ways to solve the problem. The speaking and presentation skills I developed will also help me now and in the future as a Girl Scout Ambassador, a foundation ambassador, as well as in school and in my career.
I partnered with the Ear Peace Foundation and my school, which allowed me to greatly expand the impact of my project, and gain skills in coordinating and communicating with others. Serving as a video spokesperson, becoming a foundation ambassador and teaching the Dangerous Decibels curriculum to an energetic class of fourth graders as a 14-year-old high school freshman, were great experiences for me which gave me increased confidence and determination.
I learned I could inspire others to act, including my Band Director, who not only taught his own students about hearing protection, but was inspired to make a presentation at a statewide conference to other music educators from around the state. Completing such a large project with more than 340 hours of effort and reaching multiple audiences, has had a major impact on me, and has given me confidence in my ability to educate and influence others in a positive way.
I also learned to solve problems by taking an alternate approach.