What people hear — and don’t hear — at a local hearing clinic aimed at restoring and saving the hearing of local musicians and marching band members is no surprise.
“It was shocking to me,” said Mark Fowler, manager of the New Orleans Music Co-op. “I knew I lost hearing but wanted to hear how bad,” said the rock musician who played electric guitar.
“When I got my hearing aids, I was sitting outside and could hear every drop of rain hitting the leaves,” he said.
Musicians often lose their sense of hearing, slowly but surely, particularly when their ears are unprotected. For that reason, Tipitina’s Foundation offers free hearing screenings on the first Monday of every month at its New Orleans co-op office at 4040 Tulane Ave. Dina Zeeevi, a hearing instrument specialist, donates her services.
After Hurricane Katrina, Zeevi heard someone say: “If you want to preserve the music, preserve the musicians.” The skill she could contribute to that cause was her medical training.
“It is my way of giving back to the community and try to raise awareness about the need to protect hearing and to prevent hearing loss later down the line,” she said.
In the screening process, Zeevi discusses musicians’ backgrounds and assesses their need for hearing protection. If she finds a hearing loss, she explains the results and discusses options.
Hearing aids are expensive, so musicians are well advised to prevent damage. Zeevi wants to help professional musicians, but particularly young people starting to learn how to play instruments in marching bands. Specially made earplugs effectively reduce the decibel levels.
High fidelity, custom-fit earplugs reduce the risk of hearing damage from loud music at concerts and noise at air shows, parades, and athletic events. For musicians, regular use of high-fidelity earplugs, worn while practicing and performing, protect against the cumulative effects of overexposure to sound over a lifetime.
Wearing earplugs at a young age is important for another reason. Players must learn to adjust to the difference in sound. Earplugs allow musicians to hear their own music and blend with others.
“You don’t realize what you don’t hear until you don’t hear it anymore,” she said. Hearing loss resulting from loud sounds reduces clarity. “Everything is just jumbled together.”
The most common damage from playing music is deterioration of the high frequencies. When people get the new hearing aids, many comment about being able to hear birds sing.
As a provider for the Hear Now Hearing Foundation, Zeeni can help low-income people who need hearing aids. She makes ear impressions for a custom fit for a musician’s earplug product with a diaphragm that controls sound levels so music and speech are clear and natural.
In addition to the hearing clinic, Tipitina’s Music Office co-ops provide fully equipped workspaces for musicians, filmmakers and other digital media professionals in addition to training tools and resources.
Co-ops are operating in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Shreveport, Lake Charles, Alexandria and Monroe. The offices have computers with Internet connections and design software, printers, scanners, telephone and fax machines. They also offer members pro-bono legal assistance.
The Tipitina’s New Orleans Musicians Co-op is located in the Fountainebleau Self-Storage Building, 4040 Tulane Ave., New Orleans. Call Mark Fowler for further information on membership or the hearing clinic at (504) 891-0580.