On Aug. 5, Millburn High School sophomore Eva Nelson helped educate over 100 campers about the issue of hearing loss at Gesher summer camp in Livingston.
With help from Mike Warman, the camp’s LIT (Leader in Training) director, Eva taught about 17 LITs how to teach the youngsters about hearing loss.
In turn, the teens helped present the lesson to several younger campers once they had a sufficient grasp on the information.
“Helping teens overcome their fear of public speaking so they can teach the lesson was a difficult and rewarding challenge,” Eva told NJ Jewish News.
Eva is a cofounder of iTold4, a project that spreads awareness on the issue of hearing loss. The name iTold4 comes from the founders’ hope that every person that learns the message will spread it to at least four others.
The project was founded in fall 2010 by Eva and four friends, all high school students: siblings Sami and Zack Vinik, Andrea Shepard, and Eva’s sister, Sarah.
Sami Vinik’s own hearing loss helped inspire the others to start the project, although Eva said she also drew inspiration from her grandfather. “My grandpa has severe hearing loss,” she said. “He has to talk loud and slow. I don’t want people to live with hearing loss if they don’t have to.”
A member of Temple Oheb Shalom in South Orange, Eva said she could relate the experience of helping others and community service to important Jewish values like tzedaka and tikun olam.
According to Eva’s presentation one of the major concerns, especially for young people, is Noise Induced Hearing Loss, or NIHL. NIHL is permanent but preventable, she said, and can be caused by an intense “impulse” sound or exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time, including through personal musical devices played at too high a volume.
Youngsters can prevent NIHL, according to iTold4, by wearing earplugs, limiting exposure to loud noises, and locking the volume on their iPods and other devices.
During the school year, the iTold4 team recruits other teenagers and shows them how to teach children about hearing loss. At Gesher, they modified the lesson plan for the camp environment — for example, doing away with workbooks so the presentation didn’t feel like a classroom.
However, some elements of the lesson remained the same. The team presented the Unfair Hearing Test to the campers: The presenters played a series of muffled words to emulate hearing loss, then asked trainees to write down the words they heard.
The iTold4 partners have worked with fourth grade and kindergarten classes in Millburn. Eva said she hopes to expand the reach of iTold4. She would like to see a lesson for every grade in the elementary school, and to branch out beyond hearing loss, to address skin health and eyesight.
Eva arranged the Gesher activity with camp director Scott Lantzman and assistant director Marla Parnes.
“The kids were really engaged and liked it,” Eva said. “We doubled or tripled the amount of teenagers we have. It was a huge success.”