Loud music feels good. However, constant loud sound can impact your hearing for life. In the live music realm, your ears are your moneymakers, so hearing safety is vitally important.
Doctor Jenna Paley is a Music Industry Audiologist, specialising in hearing wellness. She holds a bachelors degree in Hearing and Speech Science, and is a Doctorate of Audiology from Indiana University, Bloomington. She is a Chicago native and a recent graduate of the Sensaphonics Gold Circle seminar.
After several emotional discussions with some of our favourite pro musicians and engineers about how their hearing disorders have impacted not only on their career but their quality of life, Dr. Paley dedicated her career to making sure future generations of musicians would only experience the successes of her clients, and not their pain.
In 2015 she founded Project Decibel, an education-based hearing wellness initiative for the music industry.
More recently, Sensaphonics, the Experts in Safe Sound, have announced the appointment of Dr. Jenna Paley to promote hearing wellness and business development. She is the third audiologist to join the Sensaphonics staff, joining company President Dr. Michael Santucci and clinical audiologist, Dr. Heather Malyuk.
ZioGiorgio.com: How and why did you become as interested in hearing health as you are today?
Dr. Jenna Paley: Outside of my Audiology career I am also a yoga instructor. Overall wellness has always been a passion of mine, and I have always been more passionate about preventative medicine vs. treatment of disease and disorder. I had several friends in music school at the time, and found that none of them knew anything about their ears. They didn’t know how they work, how they are injured, or how to protect them. I knew that I had discovered an insight into the “preventative” side of Audiology, and decided to specialise in those working in working un-regulated, high-risk industries for hearing injury, due to exposure to loud sound. My passion really lies in educating and protecting music industry personnel.
ZioGiorgio.com: What are the most common causes of hearing loss?
Dr. Jenna Paley: It’s a common misconception that hearing loss is caused by the ageing process. We know that getting older does not directly cause hearing loss, because there are many 80+ year olds with normal hearing. Hearing loss is instead caused by a combination of the following:
1. Exposure to loud sound
2. Vascular Health (anything that impedes blood flow, e.g. diabetes, smoking)
4. Disease/Injury (Head Trauma)
5. Drugs; chemotherapy
ZioGiorgio.com: Can you tell us about your organisation, Project Decibel? What is your organisation’s mission?
Dr. Jenna Paley: Earlier this year I had the pleasure of working with Roger Daltrey from The Who. After his hearing test, we had an emotional conversation about how his hearing loss had not only impacted his ability to perform, but also how he enjoys music. It was the hardest day of my professional career, and unfortunately I’ve had to have several of those conversations with other musicians. In that moment, I decided that I would dedicate my career to making sure that future musicians will experience only his successes, and not his pain. Project Decibel is the largest team of audiology professionals who specialise in working in the music industry, and we are a wellness initiative geared towards raising hearing awareness. We create a platform for artists, engineers and others in the industry to talk about our most important instruments; our ears. We put education first through wellness events and workshops, remote hearing testing, and through provision of custom hearing protection. Our mission is to educate, test, and protect the next generation of musicians, and support the current members of this industry.
ZioGiorgio.com: How do you feel about working with Michael Santucci, one of the pioneers in the IEM industry and president of Sensaphonics? What will be your role in the company?
Dr. Jenna Paley: I am so excited to be a part of the Sensaphonics team. As a doctoral student at Indiana University, Sensaphonics was not on the roster for our clinical rotations. I knew I wanted to specialise in hearing conservation, so I would travel back up to Chicago during breaks and long weekends to study under Dr. Santucci and Dr. Malyuk. I was so fortunate to have the leaders of our industry as my mentors, and I now call them close friends. Sensaphonics’ focus has always been hearing conservation. My role is to capture the education we do in the clinic and take it on the road. I will be creating new relationships, educating through lectures and seminars, and doing mobile hearing testing. I will also be creating ear impressions for custom gear. My main focus is wellness and spreading hearing awareness.
ZioGiorgio.com: What should I take into consideration when purchasing my first IEMs?
Dr. Jenna Paley: My first concern as a hearing doctor is safety. IEMs are no safer than wedges if you don’t wear them with the intention to protect yourself from injury. Again, it all comes back to education. There is a great study that measures the difference in SPL at the eardrum between wedge monitors and IEMs. The results show that when musicians were told to turn up the IEMs to a level that they’re comfortable playing at, they were within 4dB of where the wedges were. However, when they were asked to turn them down as much as they could without compromising their performance, they were able to turn them down an average of -6dB; cutting the SPL in half twice! There are so many different styles of in-ears floating around these days. I always advise my patients get in-ears that give them the best isolation. Because our ear canal moves when we move our jaw, for example when we sing or smile, you want the monitors to be able to move with your ear canal to avoid breaking the acoustic seal. I always recommend a soft silicon earpiece for maximum isolation and comfort.
ZioGiorgio.com: What is the latest technology available for IEMs?
Dr. Jenna Paley: Have you heard about Sensaphonics’ 3D system? We found that several artists were pulling one IEM out during shows because they felt isolated from the crowd. Once you pull one ear out, you firstly expose that ear to dangerous levels of sounds, and secondly have to increase the volume on the other ear by around 6dB to compensate for central masking. To combat this problem, Sensaphonics has created an 3D-IEM with ambient microphones embedded in the earpieces, allowing as much ambient sound as desired to pass into your mix. The microphones have a frequency response of 20-20kHz, with a headroom of 140dBSPL, and sound like your open ear canal when in “communication mode”. We had so much success with the 3D system, and had several requests for a generic fit system that could be shared between friends. This cuts down the price of custom impressions for those who want the active ambient system but are also on a budget. From this, we’re excited to announce 3D-U, our new universal fit active ambient system. The active ambient system is patented to Sensaphonics and is the only active system currently on the market.
ZioGiorgio.com: Can you give us a short “vade mecum” on hearing conservation?
Dr. Jenna Paley: Get a baseline hearing test – and get tested every year! The best form of hearing conservation is annual testing to make sure that what you are doing to prevent hearing loss is working. Find an Audiologist who is trained and specialises in working with musicians, and come up with a “wellness plan” for your hearing. I know there is a shortage of Audiologists who specialise in working in the music industry, and for that reason I have made myself available by email (email@example.com) for consultations. I would encourage everyone reading this article to go and get your hearing tested, and feel free to send me your results for review so we can create a wellness plan together that’s individualised to you!