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Etymotic comes to Toy Fair to protect young ears

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Hearing health technology company Etymotic Research was a first-time exhibitor at last week’s Toy Fair, and boasted that its first children’s product, ETY•Kids Safe-Listening Earphones, was “the most important toy” at the fair.

It had good cause.

“This is the first generation of kids that doesn’t listen to music and watch TV communally,” said company spokesperson Irwin Kornfeld.

“They’re plugged in to all this stuff, and parents don’t know how loud it’s being played.”

The ”cumulative social implications of irreversible hearing loss” from kids listening to portable entertainment and communications devices almost exclusively via headphones are yet unknown, Kornfeld added, but Etymotic isn’t waiting to find out. ETY•Kids Safe-Listening Earphones, which have been designed to block background noise and provide high-definition sound quality, also prevent dangerously excessive volume independent of a portable player’s volume setting and output.

“So parents don’t have to worry,” said Kornfeld, whose original children’s book Hu’s Hoo & The Zoo, about an animal band’s quest for fame and fortune, was also brought to Toy Fair.

The book comes with an 11-song CD of original music by Kornfeld, with lyrics by Tom Chapin band member Jon Cobert, who’s worked with the likes of John Lennon and John Denver. The book is given free with purchase of ETY•Kids earphones, and focuses on safe listening.

Aimed at ages four-to-10, the earphones themselves come in three colors and are available so far at the Etymotic website.

“We want parents to give their kids safe listening habits at a young age,” said the company’s global sales operations manager Charlene Clements. Young musicians are also being aided via Etymotic’s “Adopt-a-Band” program, which provides high-fidelity hearing protection and educational materials on safe listening levels to young musicians. Bands “adopted” so far including numerous high school and college marching bands, as well as L.A. rock band Thick as Thieves, which is using Etymotic’s in-ear sound monitors.

“We want young musicians to hear for a lifetime,” said Clements.

Meanwhile, Etymotic’s reusable high fidelity EtyPlugs earplugs will be sold at the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., The Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, N.Y., and the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Mass., beginning with these amphitheaters’ spring concert seasons. The program will be promoted with the slogan "Save Your Ears and Hear Better," and is designed to help concert goers protect their hearing while enjoying an optimal listening experience.

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