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Bands receive earplugs

Cumberland County Public Schools (CUCPS) received 150 pairs of earplugs for its band students, ranging from grades 5-12, before its Winter Concert on Tuesday evening.

The specialized electronic earplugs were donated by members of the Farmville Lions Club and Longwood University’s Speech, Hearing and Learning Services (SHLS).

Members of Prince Edward County’s middle and high school bands received earplugs from the Lions Club and SHLS during a ceremony in November.

The inspiration for the earplugs and the work to bring them to area school bands came from Longwood University student Meredith Puryear, who said hearing preservation has been important to her from a young age as she experienced chronic ear infections as a child.

Over the summer, she had helped Prince Edward County High School Band Director Tiarrah Crouch with the band program and noticed how loud some of the instruments and equipment could be.

“I had to cover my ears it was so loud,” Puryear said.

Following the advice of Longwood Audiology Professor Dr. Mani Aguilar to take action to preserve others’ hearing, Puryear contacted Aguilar to see what could be done.

“All I was expecting was to get a little box of those little foam earplugs, the yellow ones that they might give at a NASCAR (event),” Puryear said. “We’ve now been on this journey with the Lions Club, Speech Hearing and Learning Services, Prince Edward and now Cumberland, and I’m just so thankful for all of the help that’s come my way and our way, and I’m so excited that we can help these children and that they can hear music far into their futures.” 

The Farmville Lions Club has worked to donate earplugs to Prince Edward, Cumberland and surrounding counties.

Hearing Program Chairperson Thomas McBride said Fuqua School’s band may be the next to receive earplugs.

Farmville Club President Greg Cole said during the presentation that the Lions Club’s aim is to help as many people in the county protect their hearing.

“We all need to preserve it. We all need to make sure that we do so, even at an early age,” Cole said. “That’s why we’re so glad that Meredith has brought this to us.”

The electronic earplugs, Cole said, are designed to allow band members to hear the notes of their neighbors without the danger of damaging their hearing. 

Aguilar, during the presentation, noted the importance of hearing preservation and said that because people can’t see their inner ear and the thousands of cells that could be damaged — often irreversibly — that it’s often something people don’t think about.

“When those little cells are gone inside of our ears, at least in humans, they’re gone,” Aguilar said. “At the age of the band members here, their hearing needs to be protected.”

Griffin praised Puryear’s actions and encouraged students to similarly find solutions to challenges their communities face.

“Students, that’s what we want for you,” Griffin said. “To be like her and go out to do something to help others.”

Following the presentation, students from the fifth-grade and sixth-grade band performed holiday selections such as “Dreidel Song” and “Jingle Bells.”

Band Director Scott Gordon said this was the first time the fifth-grade band had performed in front of an audience. He noted during the presentation the Lions club’s forward thinking in working to protect band members’ hearing. 

“I’m just pleased as punch to be one of the first bands in the commonwealth here to set on that course and change the way we look at bands,” Gordon said.