Aug 2015:

Melbourne musician making a difference to Australia’s hearing health

Siobhan-working-at-AcademicMelbourne-based indie musician Siobhan McGinnity is applying her multiple talents to set up Musicians for Hearing to help improve the hearing health of the Melbourne music community.  Siobhan is the keyboard player for the highly regarded, Melbourne-based indie rock quartet Sons of Rico.

As both an active musician and clinically-qualified audiologist, Siobhan (picture right working in a hearing clinic) is interested in how musicians and music aficionados could better manage and protect their hearing health.

Through a PhD scholarship provided by the HEARing Cooperative Research Centre (HEARing CRC) at The University of Melbourne, Siobhan is now investigating practical and cost-effective ways to reduce or prevent hearing loss from exposure to high sound levels within live music settings. “My PhD is focused on identifying safe listening behaviours for live music, so it doesn’t impact on either hearing ability or enjoyment of music,” Siobhan said.

Exposure to high levels of sound in music and other leisure activities has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a major contributor to increasing incidence of hearing disability in young adults.  The WHO’s Make Listening Safe world-wide campaign is aimed at raising awareness of this risk.  With hearing loss expected to affect one in four Australians by 2050, Siobhan sees lack of awareness and education about how exposure to frequent and loud sounds can impact on an individual’s hearing as the critical problem.

But Siobhan believes we are beginning to see changes in people’s attitudes to hearing loss. “The view that hearing loss is something that only the elderly have to worry about is outdated,” she explained.

“The modern reality is that anyone can be affected by hearing loss, including young people who unknowingly expose their ears in noisy environments that can cause the onset of permanent hearing loss and tinnitus a lot earlier in life. We only have one set of ears to last our lifetime and we need to protect and manage our hearing, just as do for vision and other senses.”

“Through Musicians for Hearing and the HEARing CRC’s HEARsmart initiative, we want to raise awareness in musicians, music lovers and the general public, and to provide the tools to help people assess their individual risk and to adopt safe listening behaviours that will let them enjoy what they love to hear.”

“Musicians for Hearing has three aims, to raise money for hearing care in the developing world through music, share that music with the Deaf community and encourage conversation, in particular amongst musicians, about hearing awareness and hearing protection.”

Musicians for Hearing will have its first gig to celebrate 2015 Hearing Awareness Week on 23 August at the Gasometer Hotel. The gig has a list of local musicians interested in hearing health including Fraser A Gorman, Alta Lanks and Jim Lawrie. Proceeds from the gig will go to All Ears Cambodia this year.

The HEARing CRC through its HEARsmart Initiative proudly supports Musicians for Hearing.