Moody College hosts hearing clinic for local musicians

Lauren Florence

The Moody College of Communication helped educate local musicians about hearing loss and provided them with custom earplugs at the UT Speech and Hearing Center on Tuesday.

The program, which is a collaboration between Estes Audiology Hearing Centers, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) and UT’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, gives local musicians who are insured through HAAM accurate hearing tests and individual counseling about how to protect their hearing.

Soriya Estes, president and founder of Estes Audiology, said the main draw for musicians to come to the center is to have access to an affordable set of custom, filtered earplugs. Custom earplugs usually cost more than $200, but are available for a $25 co-pay through the center for musicians. Estes said, the program, which runs four times a year, has served about 1,500 local musicians since 2009.

“Many musicians with HAAM — and just musicians in general — don’t like foam plugs in their ear because it muffles sound, so they elect to not wear anything because they don’t want to compromise the sound on stage,” Estes said. “But then they’re damaging their hearing permanently, which then further compromises it later down the road.”

In individual counseling sessions, clinicians discuss the duration and intensity of each musician’s set because it helps them to customize the hearing protection, which is essential for preserving the musician’s livelihood and employment, Estes said.

Alison Barry, Spanish and communication sciences and disorders senior, said she would love if the center had resources to provide services to student musicians or to help stress the importance of hearing protection to those students.

“Musicians and people who enjoy concerts — specifically loud music, like rock, techno or metal — need to realize that they are incurring damage every time they attend a concert without proper hearing protection,” Barry said. “They need to take these precautions early in life if they want to be able to hear just as well in their old age.”

James Booth, communication sciences and disorders professor, said the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders got involved because the program fit its mission of community outreach and directly improving lives of community members.

“A startling figure is that adults with uncorrected hearing loss suffer from much higher rates of depression,” Booth said. “Not being able to hear isolates us from the world. Musicians help to make Austin a great place to live, and many are struggling financially, so we should do what we can to help.”