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FCCLA project warns Holyoke about dangers of hearing loss PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

Holyoke High School FCCLA members Jeremy Loutensock and Matthew Golden know hearing loss is no joking matter, and they are doing something about it.

Using research and education methods developed by the Dangerous Decibels Program, the two students have educated all age groups within the community about the dangers of hearing loss.

To do this, Loutensock and Golden assembled a mannequin, called a Jolene Sibling, that acts as a sound level meter.

Their mannequin, named Viviana, was used this month for demonstrations at Melissa Memorial Hospital Health Fair and at presentations to fourth-grade, junior high and high school students March 22-24.

FCCLA member Jeremy Loutensock uses a special mannequin assembled with a sound meter to help
fourth-grader Dylan Miles test his MP3 player to determine if the volume will damage hearing.
Loutensock and Matthew Golden are partnering with Linda Jelden to teach students about the parts
of the ear, how hearing works and how to protect hearing as part of their Dangerous Decibels
community outreach program.


Project history explained

In February 2010, the National Hearing Conservation Association Conference was held in Orlando, Fla. At this conference studies were presented regarding the habits of modern Americans and how those habits affect hearing.

Among the attendants at this conference was audiologist Linda Jelden of Holyoke. She left the conference determined to play a role in hearing conservation.

When Loutensock and Golden heard about Jelden’s desire to educate the community about the dangers of hearing loss, they volunteered to help and the Dangerous Decibels FCCLA project was born.

There are two factors that contribute to hearing loss. The first is the volume of a sound measured in decibels, and the second is length of exposure to that sound. Sound will become dangerous to hearing at about 85 decibels.

Part of the National Hearing Conservation Conference was a program called Dangerous Decibels in which Genna Martin, a 2009 graduate of Boston University, came up with an idea for measuring the effects of personal music devices on hearing.

This process involved converting a mannequin into a working sound level meter. This is done by replacing the mannequin’s ear with a silicone ear that looks and feels like a human ear, then taking apart and altering a sound level meter to include an extension wire, running the microphone through the mannequin and fitting it inside a hole cut out of the silicone ear.

By doing this, an individual can measure the volume in decibels of a music player by simply placing a headphone into the mannequin’s ear and playing a song.

Martin named her original mannequin Jolene, and since that time universities and military bases have copied her design.

Jelden thought it would be interesting to build one of these Jolene Siblings and use it to research and educate the community, and now Loutensock and Golden have their own mannequin, Viviana. They are the first high school group anywhere to accomplish this feat.

The process of hearing occurs when vibrations are transmitted through three tiny bones in the middle ear, commonly called the hammer, anvil and stirrup. The ear drum and “hammer” amplify these vibrations and carry them to the inner ear.

The vibrations then move through fluid in the snail-shaped cochlea that contains small hair-like cells. The fluid moves the top portion of the hair cells, called the hair bundle, which initiates the charges that create nerve impulses. These nerve impulses are then carried to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is caused when microscopic hair cells located inside the cochlea are damaged or destroyed due to loud noises.

Various groups of hair cells are responsible for different frequencies, or rate of vibrations in a sound wave. The healthy human ear can hear frequencies ranging from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.

If any group of hair cells is destroyed, the person loses the ability to hear at that frequency.

Another common symptom of hearing loss is tinnitus, or ringing in the ear. Around 40 million to 50 million Americans have tinnitus­—one quarter of them to the degree that they seek medical attention.

The worst part of hearing loss is that once hair cells are destroyed, they cannot be remade; therefore hearing damage is permanent.