Hearing health takes center stage with Sensaphonics at 2024 AES International Conference on Audio and Music-Induced Hearing Disorders

Sensaphonics recently took a leading role in the 2024 AES 4th International Conference on Audio and Music-Induced Hearing Disorders, held May 29 – 31 at the Aalborg University Copenhagen Campus in Copenhagen, Denmark. Featuring three days filled with hearing-health-related topics and information, event highlights included presentations from Sensaphonics founder and president Dr. Michael Santucci, Au.D. – who also served as the Conference’s co-chair – and Dr. Shannon Switzer, Au.D., director of the Musicians’ Hearing Clinic at Sensaphonics, on technologies promoting safe listening practices while using IEMs. The Sensaphonics-sponsored event further offered presentations from a variety of audio and audiology professionals, a technical tour of the Royal Danish Academy of Music, and various networking opportunities.

According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 28 million Americans have a hearing impairment, and a growing source of the dangerous sound levels creating this health crisis comes from earphones and headphones. On a related note, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that over 2.5 billion young people are at risk for permanent hearing loss from smartphones and concerts. Generally, the user of earphones or headphones has no knowledge of, or reference for, the actual sound level presented to their ears. Without knowledge of the actual audio levels being applied to the ear canal, the user is at risk of accruing hearing damage with long-term use.

Until now, users had virtually no way to quantify the potentially dangerous levels at which they are listening. In his presentation “A new tool for measuring in-ear levels,” Dr. Santucci introduced the audience to the Sensaphonics dB Check Pro, an in-line, real-time sound level analyzer for in-ear monitors and headphones. Utilizing patented technology, the dB Check Pro can be used to analyze and display real-time and average dBA-SPL levels, along with safe listening times, for a growing selection of over 140 headphone and IEM models from 12 major manufacturers – thereby helping musicians and audio engineers make smart, informed choices on their hearing health.

“The statistics don’t lie,” states Dr. Santucci. “Our industry, along with the general population, has chosen to believe that hearing health is not at the top of the list for overall well-being, which is simply not true. The importance of this Conference and similar events cannot be understated, as we continue to work to educate musicians, engineers, and others regularly exposed to high-SPL environments on how to work the best they can, for as long as they can. The Sensaphonics dB Check Pro is the first product that can provide that awareness and peace-of-mind, rather seamlessly, without having to alter the workflow of the production.”

A potential benefit of IEM use for hearing health is their high degree of acoustic isolation from often high levels of on-stage sound, which allows the musician to listen to their monitor mix at lower, safer levels. However, for many musicians, this isolation makes them feel too disconnected from the audience, their bandmates, and even elements of their own instrument, usually resulting in less-than-ideal practices (removing one of their earpieces, for example) to help them hear “better” in the moment but potentially damaging their long-term hearing. To help remedy this, Sensaphonics has developed the 3DME 3-Dimensional Music Enhancement IEM System. This system uses patented Active Ambient™ technology to eliminate the sense of isolation by using ambient mics that are embedded in each earpiece, immediately offering a more natural soundscape for the user. Dr. Switzer’s presentation “Breaking Bad (Listening Habits) with the 3DME Active Ambient In-Ear Monitor” outlined the benefits of the Active Ambient technology in providing a manageable approach to the problem, especially with the system’s ability to adjust the ambience level, EQ, limiting and more, either in stereo or independently for each ear.

“Hearing better, hearing more of what you want, at healthier levels, is what the 3DME is all about,” says Dr. Switzer. “We were excited to have the chance to present our work to an engaged audience of audio professionals from around the world who feel the same way. Too many times we witness a performer making an unsafe move due to the limited capabilities of their in-ear system. The 3DME works in conjunction with a user’s wireless pack not only to provide the ambient sounds that they long to hear, but also to offer a number of helpful and safety-minded tools to fine-tune to an individual’s preferences.”

Info: Sensaphonics.com

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