May 3, 2015
By KAREN ANN CULLOTTA
CHICAGO — For high-school sophomore Sophia Pellar, a pair of special earplugs recently donated by an audiologist has put an end to the pain she suffered when playing flute in the pep band.
Still, the Mozart-loving teen giggles nervously when she explains that the earplugs — tethered by a bright-blue string and designed to protect musicians from noise-induced hearing loss — have yet to become part of her regular repertoire.
“I wear earplugs during pep-band season, because it can be crazy loud,” said Pellar, 16. “But the thought of wearing them every day is a little embarrassing.”
With research indicating that as many as 1 in 5 teens suffers from hearing loss, much of it caused by noise damage, more doctors and school-band directors are urging kids to take precautions and, in some cases, are providing earplugs. Yet experts say their messages are being undermined by an “uncool” stigma similar to that which once impeded the use of bike helmets, shin guards and sunscreen.