Lion’s preserve county youth’s hearing

Published 9:51 am Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Students in the Prince Edward County high school and middle school bands will no longer need to worry about the potential risk of hearing damage or loss as a result of the sound.

Members of the Farmville Lions Club and Longwood University’s Speech, Hearing and Learning Services (SHLS) partnered with the school division to provide the two school bands with specialized earplugs, which will protect students’ hearing without them missing any crucial notes.

The organizations presented the schools with the earplugs during a ceremony Nov. 2.

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This makes Prince Edward the first school division in the state to take on this action, according to High School Band Director Tiarrah Crouch.

The Lions Club provided 150 of the specialized earplugs to each of the school bands.

The electronic earplugs are engineered to protect the wearer’s hearing once sounds exceed the decibel level that could damage hearing, but it won’t muffle sounds that fall within normal decibel levels.

The idea for the earplugs came from Longwood University student Meredith Puryear.

Puryear said the idea of hearing preservation had always been in the back of her mind.

She described having chronic ear infections and having to use tubes to drain fluid in the ears, which eventually led to a perforated eardrum that had to be surgically repaired.

Puryear said she understood the importance of hearing in education, particularly for musicians. Helping Crouch during a summer band program, Puryear realized the constant exposure school band members have to loud noise.

“When I was helping Ms. Crouch this summer set up for band camp, and I was listening to just how loud everything is that they have to use to be in the amazing band that they are,” Puryear said. “When I heard everything was so loud, I thought in my head that I needed to talk to Dr. (Mani) Aguilar, because to me they needed a little something more than they already had.”

Dr. Aguilar is a specialist and professor with SHLS, who encouraged Puryear to take action about her concerns.

That’s when the Farmville Lions Club stepped in.

The Farmville Club is the fourth oldest Lions Club division in Virginia, having started in 1925.

The Club currently provides assistance for eyeglass wear, eye exams and hearing aids for community members who may not be able to afford them.

Club President Greg Cole, a former high school band member, said he played the trumpet and said his placement in the band was where the noise was loudest, by the percussion set.

“These Prince Edward Middle School and High School students, we really need to help them conserve their hearing. And there are great earplugs out there that reduce the decibels but still hear what you’re playing. As a matter of fact, I hear that you can hear the notes a little bit more clearly,” Cole said. The earplugs will give members of the band a cutting edge while they are already on the top of their game.

The High School Band won first place in every category during a competition at Midlothian High School on Oct. 7, Crouch said. The Band won second place in all categories on Oct. 14 at Bluestone High School’s Band Camp. That Saturday, Crouch said the band was heading to Powhatan High School to participate in the Music Class 3A, a state assessment Crouch described as being the band’s equivalent of the SOLs.

The band’s success is well earned. Crouch said as the band meets every day to practice.

Senior student Amber Maliangos was one of those students.

Maliangos, who plays bass clarinet and is drum major, said the earplugs are a step in enabling her to pursue her career in music.

“I think it’s really cool they donated this to us as a lot of us want to pursue music after high school,” Maliangos said. “I want to be a band director, and want to hear for the rest of my life.”

The organizations will similarly donate earplugs to band students at Cumberland County on Dec. 5.