We're hEAR For You

Passionate about noise-induced hearing loss, We're hEAR For You spreads the word through ear plugs, available at local bars and venues.

Music lovers have two best friends — their ears.

“What would be more sad than somebody who loves going to shows, and then they wreck their ears and can’t really enjoy it anymore?” said Katie Carmody, vice president of We’re hEAR For You.

We’re hEAR For You has spent the past four years protecting the ears of concertgoers, providing free earplugs at music venues and raising awareness about noise-induced hearing loss.

In 2009, Caroline DeCelles had a ruptured eardrum and forgot to bring hearing protection to a concert. When she found the venue’s earplug vending machine empty, the idea for We’re hEAR For You arose.

“It was just at that point that I realized that every venue needs to have free earplugs,” organization president DeCelles said. “This is something that’s so important.”

Since that epiphany, the volunteer-run nonprofit has formed relationships with 15 music venues in Athens and one in Atlanta. The group provides coupons for free hearing screenings and distributes more than 10,000 earplugs to live music fans every year. Plugs are available at venue bars, and volunteers roam the crowds at festivals, such as AthFest, passing them out.

“It’s been really well received,” DeCelles said. “I know a lot of the music venues — the employees of the music venues, in particular — have been extremely grateful for it. And the bands have also been very forward in wanting to help spread awareness, which is great. Noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable, but it’s 100 percent permanent.”

Partnering with the University of Georgia Communication Sciences and Disorders Program, of which DeCelles is an alumnus, and the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association, We're hEAR For You educates the public about hearing loss prevention at music festivals, community events and local schools.

“We’re very much education-centered,” Carmody said. “I feel like as soon as people understand the severity of the risk — that it’s irreversible and permanent, you know — once we convey those facts to people and then provide them the product for free, it’s much easier for them to give it a try.”

Sometimes, getting people to try plugs is the hardest part. Many resist them because they believe their hearing is beyond saving. Others overestimate the strength of hearing protection, DeCelles said.

“They think that if they wear earplugs, they can’t hear anything,” she said. “That’s not the facts. If you reduce a 110 decibel concert to 80 decibels, you can still hear very, very well. So we’re trying to break that misconception.”

Breaking such misconceptions is easier with the pair’s connections. Carmody, a UGA music business graduate, works as the artist relations and marketing director for the Georgia Theatre, and DeCelles is a speech-language pathologist.

“I think with me and Caroline’s backgrounds — her being the science and education side of it and me being the music business related side of it — works out really well,” Carmody said.

The group raises money to purchase earplugs through events such as auctions and raffles, for which venues provide items such as concert tickets. The group has just begun offering multiple-use earplugs and is raising funds to purchase more of those.

Saturday, Dirty Birds will host a percentage night for the organization, which will raffle off tickets to several venues. Outlaws in the Round Part II will perform upstairs at Crow’s Nest during the event.

“Just because we have a concert booked doesn’t mean we can’t still turn out some of the proceeds to a fundraiser,” owner Ryan Heron said. “Especially if the fundraisers are going to help us promote that show and get people there to attend the concert.”

Concert attendees may not know about the movement, but they will hear about it soon.

PERCENTAGE NIGHT FOR WE’RE hEAR FOR YOU and Outlaws in the Round Part II

WHEN: Feb. 23, 5 p.m. to close

WHERE: Dirty Birds