media release

Students with Hearing Loss Explore grand canyon Soundscapes


Staefa, Switzerland, August 1, 2011

Today, seventeen teenagers with mixed hearing ability (most with varying degrees of hearing loss) embarked on a five-day river trip in the Grand Canyon National Park as part of the Hear the World Sound Academy: Amplifying the Grand Canyon. Global Explorers, a non-profit educational travel organization, and the Grand Canyon Youth are leading this unique group of Sound Academy students down the river for the learning experience of a lifetime.

Global Explorers partnered with Hear the World, a global initiative by hearing instrument manufacturer Phonak, to create the unique sound education program that is all about trust and creative communication, building connections and breaking down barriers, having fun and deepening the students knowledge of hearing loss and sound while navigating through the diverse sound landscape, or soundscape, of the Grand Canyon National Park.

Soundscapes plays a key role in enhancing visitors’ experiences in places like the Grand Canyon. One can usually hear a chirp or the increased flow of water before ever seeing the bird and the river rapids around the corner. These types of sounds, which the National Park Service call “acoustical resources,” face the serious threat of noise pollution. Noise obscures sounds and reduces the listening horizon, so to maintain the maximum experience of the Grand Canyon it is imperative the acoustical resources are protected. 

During the trip, the students will experience the natural and cultural sounds of the Grand Canyon and the importance of hearing preservation while actively working with acoustic scientists to collect sound data for a Natural Sounds Podcast for the National Park Service. For these students, most with some level of hearing loss, this is a chance to discover an entirely new way of looking at sound as a precious resource and hearing as a cherished sense.

The Sound Academy students will be inspired on the trip by Bill Barkeley, a world-class mountain climber and one of the 15,000 people in the United States with Type 2 Usher’s Syndrome – the leading cause of deaf-blindness in the world. Bill’s 2007 summit of Mount Kilimanjaro shattered expectations and confirmed his role as an advocate and inspiration for the hearing loss community.

After the river trip, the Sound Academy student will join Bill as Hear the World ambassadors, applying what they learn on the trip to educate the public about natural sounds and acoustical resource preservation, as well as hearing, hearing loss and hearing prevention through an online campaign and learning tools, like a sound-themed podcast to be used by the National Park Service.

To follow the adventures of the Hear the World Sound Academy down the Grand Canyon, visit the Sound Academy Live Blog.

A number of the Sound Academy students received scholarships to participate in the Hear the World Sound Academy from audiologists around the country, including Jones Audiology & Hearing Aid Centers in Fort Worth, TX; Bassett Medical Center Audiology Department in Cooperstown, NY; and Bordenick Audiology in Baltimore, MD.

To learn more about Global Explorers, please visit

To learn more about Grand Canyon, please visit