Article by Julie Beeler & Jeff Roberts
Audiology and Speech Pathology Collaborates with School of Music on Hearing Conservation Project
Denise Descouzis, a Texas resident and UT audiology alumni (’78), wants to make a difference in the lives of music students. She would like to see UT take hearing conservation from a back burner to the forefront of students’ education. “To understand the importance of hearing protection from a young age and having no stigma attached, would be a remarkable thing to witness in all colleges and universities, especially with music students.”
Descouzis recently made a donation to UT’s Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology (ASP) with the goal of developing a hearing conservation program at the School of Music. A team from ASP worked with Descouzis and Susan Phillips, associate professor of audiology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG).
Phillips has been involved in a hearing conservation program at the UNCG School of Music for several years. “From these meetings, it was easy to see that a program like this could be implemented at UT,” Patti Johnstone, director of clinical education in audiology, notes. “ASP already has faculty with knowledge and expertise in the field of hearing conservation in the industrial realm, so we felt confident that we could apply this expertise to create a meaningful program for a student population.”
The ASP team met with Jeffrey Pappas, director of the School of Music, to implement a program that targets freshmen and provides compelling messages about hearing conservation throughout their undergraduate program. Each subsequent year, a new freshman class will be added to the program. The first group of freshmen received hearing screenings shortly after beginning school in fall 2018. In all, 61 students were screened, and 22 demonstrated some degree of hearing loss in at least one ear. Ninety percent of the group reported that they have been playing instruments for seven years or more and participated in ensembles. Almost none reported that they used hearing protection.
“The screening data confirmed that this is a group of students who need to receive compelling messages about how to protect their hearing,” said Pappas. “As musicians, they will need to rely heavily upon their hearing for many years to come. We want to teach them now how to take care of their hearing. Ultimately, we hope to affect other music students and musicians by mirroring appropriate hearing health and precautions, taking the issue seriously.”
A group of students from UT’s College of Architecture and Design and their professor, Sarah Lowe, have also been added to the project’s team. Professor Lowe’s graphic design students have incorporated ideas from the ASP team to produce videos on noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus as well as a social media campaign, all with the intent of increasing awareness about the dangers of noise exposure and encouraging the use of hearing protection. Descouzis has been involved in giving feedback to the graphic design students. The program is an excellent example of university and community collaboration to meet the goal of improving the hearing health of students.
The School of Music is continuing the hearing screenings during the fall and spring semesters this year, and the videos created by the College of Architecture and Design are now being released to music students in hopes of creating awareness of the need for wearing hearing protection among musicians.