By Patricia Osei-Boateng
For over ten years, here at EarPeace we have made the original high-fidelity ear-plug that musicians use to lower harmful decibel levels while enhancing the music experience. This month, we are proud to announce that we are launching a Marching Band program to provide the same protection and experience to young musicians. We've already partnered with The Mighty Sound of Maryland, The Berklee College of Music, and The Huskies Prep Band, and are excited to now be able to expand to other college and high school band programs.
We sat down with our Marching Band program director, Sarah White, to talk more about how this program developed and what Band Directors and School Administrators need to know in order to better protect their kids.
Team EarPeace: Tell me a little about how you became aware hearing protection was such a need for young musicians?
Sarah: From the constant research we do as a brand specializing in hearing protection; we know that “Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a considerable health problem that is frequently unrecognized.” In late 2020, I came across an article that the CDC published on a survey they conducted in regards to teens and noise exposure and the efforts to protect their hearing at school. After reading the article, it wasn’t a surprise to learn that awareness is the issue here especially among younger people.
Personally, I wasn’t aware of the importance of hearing protection until my early forties. I went to my first concert at age 14 – have a massive love for attending live shows and I am a huge sports fan meaning I participate in those loud events too. I started going to sporting events when I was young, like really young – so young that I only cared about cotton candy and popcorn at the time young. So, it’s safe to say that for the last 30+ years I’ve exposed myself to a large number of loud events without hearing protection and the result for me is moments of out of nowhere ringing in my ears. Had I known better, I would like to think I would have done better and wore hearing protection.
There just isn’t enough awareness around NIHL and what it means to protect your hearing at a young age so that you can preserve it for later in life. But that’s really the key here – early and ongoing protection will mean hearing loss prevention. The younger the kids start protecting their hearing, especially younger musicians who are practicing and performing their craft on a frequent basis will truly be thankful they did later on in life.
At EarPeace, one of our motto’s is to “protect & preserve.” The launch of our recent MARCHING BAND Program is centered around the importance of hearing protection and how significantly beneficial it will be for young musicians to protect their hearing now so that they preserve it for later. The mission at EarPeace is to “save the world’s hearing,” a big feat we know but we are a passionate group who cares and will continue bringing awareness around the importance of hearing health and how to protect it. So trust me when I say, you will keep hearing from us.
Team EarPeace: You're a big football fan, how much does that have to do with your passion for this issue?
Sarah: Yeah, so for me there is nothing like being in your hometown stadium cheering on your favorite team. I get chills just thinking about it. From the team intros, the blaring music across the stadium sound system, fireworks during the national anthem, the Marching Band playing the fight song after a touchdown, the hooting and hollering from the stands –the list goes on and on.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to attend an NFL playoff game in my hometown and at the time, I was a newer employee with EarPeace and took hearing protection with me to the game. Honestly, I was hoping for an opportunity to get some lifestyle photos with the product and the atmosphere for our social platforms - it didn't dawn on me that I should actually be wearing them for the event. Right around the 3rd quarter, the stadium jumbotron lit up & had a decibel counter encouraging the fans to “cheer louder” as the entire stadium was able to watch that decibel meter climb and climb as the noise continued to build. Here I was wanting to yell as loud as I could with the thousands of fans – you know, my team depends on me, but I found myself holding back. With a ton of new information and knowledge around NIHL I was really thinking to myself – hey guys “uhm, I hate to be a downer but that meter just hit 119dB’s & our hearing is being damaged at this very moment, like damage that will never be repaired.” I remember quickly inserting the hearing protection I brought with me for photo opportunities into my ears so that I could join in on the fun. That was a lightbulb moment for me in so many ways.
Stadiums are loud, I mean L O U D! And as fans, we are encouraged to be our loudest – that’s part of the fun, but at what expense? That’s when I realized that this area of loud needed to be addressed as well. We just recently launched our Cheer Louder, your team depends on You campaign, highlighting to Play it Safe and wear Hearing Protection! This is a new round of advertisement and awareness outreach for us, so stay tuned. We hope it gets the attention it needs & helps spread the awareness of the importance to wear hearing protection at sporting events.
Team EarPeace: How did you connect with EarPeace for this program? What made you want to work with them?
Sarah: It happened sort of organically. We did a very soft outreach to a handful of University Marching Bands pre-pandemic (early Fall of 2019) regarding hearing protection. We wanted to see if schools would be interested in talking with us and trying out hearing protection for their band members. The response was great - the band directors we reached out to wanted to learn more and were on board with trying out hearing protection for their band members. At that point, we felt that the next steps were to really structure a program that was designed specifically for the education industry for both high schools and colleges. But then the pandemic hit and the plans for the program were shelved. With high schools and colleges going completely virtual, in-person events were canceled and all but a couple of events involving marching bands were postponed for most of 2020 and the beginning of 2021.
In the early summer of 2021 – the team circled back on the MARCHING BAND program. Live music was coming back, high schools and colleges were making plans to be in person come Fall 2021, marching band competition and events were being scheduled so the timing felt right to finalize the structure of this program and get it ready for the upcoming 2021- 2022 school season.
What makes me so proud to work with EarPeace and one of the many things I love about the brand and Jay Clark – CEO of EarPeace is that everyone on the team is passionate about the brand's mission. The brand prides itself on doing good work – spreading hearing health awareness and making it fun along the way. The company encompasses an open engaging atmosphere where everyone has a voice and is heard. In the early phases of how the MARCHING BAND program was going to be structured, I had a few ideas and Jay was like yeah go ahead – you got it. He let me take the reins of structuring the program from product offerings to the webpage and outreach strategy, etc. There is trust here and constant support. That’s just a few reasons why I love working with the team at EarPeace- that and the MISSION.
Team EarPeace: If you could tell band directors and administrators one thing about hearing protection, what would it be?
Sarah: I would tell them that they are in key positions as leaders and mentors to these young musicians to be the face of change against this unrecognized health problem. Together as a community, we can educate these young musicians while providing a solution in hearing protection to protect and preserve their hearing. EarPeace hearing protection is specifically engineered to lower the volume without muffling the sound, designed to be worn for hours, and is reusable; literally lasting years if cared for properly. This means you get the same experience just at a safe volume- pretty genius.
Team EarPeace: What do you hope for the future of EarPeace's Marching Band Program?
Sarah: My hope is that the Marching Band program continues to grow where EarPeace hearing protection becomes a part of every band member’s uniform – never missing a practice or performance without them. I would love to also see the program expand to bringing hearing health awareness to the fans attending their school's events and beyond. I want people to feel connected to our brand and mission. Wow- If we get to a place where I put on ESPN on Saturday during the college pre-football games and there is a segment on EarPeace hearing protection - I would cry the happiest tears...seriously! That would be #missionaccomplished to me. Again, we dream big on this team!
Team EarPeace: For people who want more information, how do they get in touch with you?