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Styx to play world-first show for hearing aid wearers

The final show of Styx’s United We Rock US tour will make live music history by being the first concert broadcast directly to viewers’ hearing aids.

Sound engineers for the 22 August show, at PNC Bank Arts Center (17,500-cap.) in Holmdel, New Jersey, will capture the audio feed from the sound desk and deliver it via the website of manufacturer Oticon to wearers of the company’s hearing aids.

The broadcast, says Oticon, is designed to both “illustrate the high-tech capabilities of a new generation of internet-connected hearing aids” and raise awareness of hearing loss.

“It’s estimated that only 20% of people who could benefit from hearing aids seek help, with many waiting up to 10 years before they purchase a hearing aid,” explains Sheena Oliver, vice-president of of Oticon. “By partnering with Styx and their millions of loyal fans, we’re helping to take the stigma out of hearing aids and allowing people with hearing loss to enjoy a quality of sound they may not have experienced since their youth.”

According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, some 20% of Americans (48m people) experience some degree of hearing damage.

The issue attracted international attention in May, when it emerged that Craig Gill, the late drummer for the Inspiral Carpets, had taken his own life after suffering with “unbearable” hearing loss.

Late Craig Gill suffered “debilitating tinnitus”

Writing for the Live Music Exchange blog in 2015, Chris Adams (aka musician Piet Haag), who suffers from tinnitus, said there is a “symbolic lack of understanding” among those working in live music as to “how our ears work”.

“The anatomical workings of the ear, a marvel of evolution, aren’t much different in principle from everyday human-made sound-related transducers, like microphones, earbuds and speakers,” he writes. “Yet so long as they remain little understood by the general population, people – and particularly those regularly engaged with the consumption of live and/or recorded  will unnecessarily damage their hearing. […]

“In the absence of any viable medical ‘repair’ option, the only solution is prevention through education.”

Among the organisations working to educate live music professionals on the dangers of hearing damage are Sound Advice, Action on Hearing Loss, the National Hearing Foundation in the Netherlands and the UK’s Musicians’ Union.

As in many things (tolerance, festival funding, variety of cheeses), the Dutch are currently leading the way: Promoters’ association VNPF is a signatory to the Music Industry Covenant to Prevent Hearing Damage and one town is going to so far as to hand out free earplugs to all 16-year-olds to protect against hearing damage “when visiting concerts and festivals”.


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