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Hearing, and Loss

Hearing and different hearing is a multi-dimensional topic. It is possible to give the coolly scientific information and pictures, and at the same time one must deal with the intellectual, psychological and emotional issues that the topic swims in. For hearing loss, or different hearing, is a subject of great sensitivity in a community whose centre is that of communication, perception and creativity through sound.

Rather surprisingly, or not, this issue of eContact! generated much anxiety in a number of places. Concert organizers and composers whose work is noted for being very loud, were sometimes unwilling to talk directly about it, and would not approach the topic of their own hearing loss or the impact of their loud sounds on audiences. There were others with hearing loss who spoke freely and directly about their situation, but were not willing to go “on the record”. Fortunately, as you will read, there are those with varying degrees of “different hearing” who are willing to speak directly to the issues at hand, and speak of personal lives which differ markedly from “accepted norms” of the “hearing world.”

Noise is always all around us but the last 45 years or so has witnessed a massive increase in exposure to physically damaging levels. As the literature shows, orchestras are capable of reaching peak sound pressure levels which with continued exposure lead to noise-induced hearing loss. A number of orchestras place plexiglas baffles in front of percussion and brass sections so that players directly in front are slightly protected. But one real issue is in the entertainment industry where concert promoters, clubs, musicians and audiences produce or demand dangerous levels for extended periods of time.

This issue of eContact! contributes to the growing number of community and arts-related publications which attempt to bring this problem higher on the agenda of community concerns. If those who produce the sounds, and use them for their lives don’t speak (up) about the issue, who will? Educators and administrators need to bring these matters into the classroom and the concert venue, and the various articles and resources featured and referenced in eContact! 9.4 provide a solid foundation for understanding the physiological and acoustical basis for this discussion. We hope that some of the personal statements will illuminate the human impact side of it.

Continuing the recently initiated “living journal” concept, the CEC production team have started a number of Wiki pages related to Hearing which are updated on a continuous basis. This important extension of eContact! continues the expansion of the journal from a static publication and aligns it with the longer-term vision of its being effectively a “living publication” for the international ea community.

Kevin Austin
Montréal 2007-vi

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