NEW ORLEANS - Listening to loud music, through ear buds or at music concerts, can cause hearing loss for anyone.

But what if loud music is how you make your living.

Several local groups are working together to save the hearing of the city's cultural treasures.

Identical twins Torrence and Thurman Thomas love playing urban contemporary R&B. And today these ASKTHETHOMASBROS band members are making sure the gigs last well into the future.

"I've noticed small things here and there but nothing substantial, because once I saw first and foremost, that I was losing, I was like, 'I need to do something about this to help prevent it,'" said musician Torrence Thomas who plays bass guitar, drums and sings in the ASKTHETHOMASBROS band.

Fifty local musicians are getting fit for custom free ear plugs. It's a collaboration with MusiCares, the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic & Assistance Foundation, the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Foundation and the New Orleans Speech and Hearing Center.

"They wanted to do 50 of their eligible members with MusiCares to provide musicians ear plugs, which will prevent noise induced hearing loss during performances and rehearsals," explained Lesley Jernigan, a speech and language pathologist who is CEO of the New Orleans Speech and Hearing Center.

"One of the problems in the last several years has been that musicians are coming in at a younger and younger age with full to partial hearing loss," said Erica Dudas, Managing Director of New Orleans Musicians' Assistance Foundation.

Drummer Jamal Batiste understands the slow damage over time.

"There have been some instances where it was extremely, extremely loud and I didn't have any plugs per se to put in, and I didn't really think nothing of it but afterwards when it was done, and I went home, and I'm like, 'Dang, why my head, why my head is ringing'" remembers Jamal Baptist of the Jamal Batiste Band.

And it's important to know that hearing loss is permanent. Once that range of hearing is gone, it's gone.

The ear plugs are custom even down to the instrument the artist plays. And it does not block tone and pitch. The quality of the music stays the same.

"Ultimately musicians rely so much on tone. They rely on their ears to do their jobs. So we just want them to keep performing," said Dudas.

The New Orleans Speech and Hearing Center has been open to the public for 86 years.

For more call: 504-897-2606 or click on

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