Punk Globe speaks with Kathy Peck
by Ginger Coyote

I have known Kathy Peck for over twenty five years or since birth and am always amazed by her accomplishments. Many may remember her when she played Bass with the all woman band The Contractions and others know her for her the selfless energy that she puts into H.E.A.R. Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers.  I  got a chance to speak  with Kathy about her life, music and H.E.A.R.

Punk Globe: I know that you suffered hearing loss after a gig your band The Contractions played with Duran Duran. Tell the readers how bad it was for you? 

Kathy: 1984 performing onstage at the Oakland Coliseum was a great experience. Duran Duran were making their famous MTV live video. Contractions were on stage opening up as a three piece with our stacks circled all around us. I had rented an STV for more stage volume. It was the screaming little girls that really sent my ears over the edge. They rang for three days. After that I experienced deafness to the point were I could not understand conversation. It was really scary. 

Repeated noise exposure caused ringing in my ears (tinnitus), and my hearing ability decreased. Eventually, I lost most of my hearing. I was helped with two hearing aids, lip reading and sign language to understand simple conversation. Ten years later, an operation helped my middle ears, but the tinnitus and some hearing loss remained. In addition to the personal and professional setback, I couldn't’t understand why people in the music industry weren’t openly discussing the damaging effects of loud music.  

Hearing loss provided the incentive for me to throw my energies in a new direction. After my friend flash gordon, MD suggested an outreach program to educate people about the potential damage loud music could cause, Dr. Gordon and I launched Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (H.E.A.R.) to do just that. 

Punk Globe: Tell the readers about your musical career? You have done all sorts of music including Country with the wonderful Tammy Why Not.  

Kathy: The Contractions were really my first band (1979) before that I was a singer/songwriter with Punk sensibilities and an aspiring recording engineer. I really loved the new direction music and fashion was headed in when Punk first came out. I also really enjoyed playing music with women who rock. We played with bands such as the Dead Kennedy’s, Black Flag, the Go Go’s and really had a great time of it. 

The Contraction’s Mary Kelley guitar/vocals and Debbie Hopkins drums were seasoned musicians. I really was new at bass playing but I had songs that were fresh and a definite style that was PUNK. So the combination really worked.


I played around in a few bands while still with the Contractions. Baby Buddha with David Microwave, Meg Brazil and Charles Hornaday: ZaZu Pits Orchestra. I was in the original ZaZu band when it first formed with Katy Gunthorn, Morey Goldstein, Steve Ashman, Lou Vacaro and many more folks. A short time with the Cheap Dates with Contractions members, Bonnie Hayes, Rebecca Kmeic and Sara. The Casual Italians with Steve Ricablanca. Mystery Train, Tammy Why Not and the Bush Whackers with Cornelia Benavidez, Jim and Gary and Chuck. Tammy was really funny because, I was in character, lassoing and spouting fireballs out to the audience, singing Great Balls of Fire! 

Punk Globe: I know that The Contractions put out a CD tell us about all your releases.

Kathy:  Album:

Something Broke (1984) 


Rules and Regulation/ You Touched Me (1980)

Breaking Up Is Not Hard To Do /Don't Blame It On Me (1983) 

(5 or 6) Various compilation albums throughout the 1980’s  

Compilation Appearances:

HEAR THIS CD Compilation (Sub City Records, available through hearnet.com, at Tower Records and other records stores across the US.) 

Who Not Forgotten CD 2004 Compilation 

Currently we are working on CD achieving of original live Contractions material. 

Punk Globe: In what year did you officially start. H.E.A.R (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers?) 

Kathy: Since our inception in 1988, H.E.A.R. has received support from some of the most respected, popular, and influential names in the music and medical industries. From performers such as Pete Townshend of The Who, Lars Ulrich of Metallica, and Les Claypool of Primus, to media giants like MTV, Guitar Player Magazine, Bass Player Magazine, Keyboard Magazine, and MIX Magazine; from medical groups such as The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association, The American Academy of Audiology, and The American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, to trade groups like the National Association of Music Manufacturers, Audio Engineer Society, Consumer Electronics Association, as well as the Grammys, The Mix Foundation /TEC Awards, The Monterey Pop Festival, Aearo Corporation, Westone, Etymotic Research, Virgin Megastores, Ziljian, South by Southwest, Future Sonics, Shure and Energizer. H.E.A.R. is recognized and supported as leading the charge against preventable hearing damage. 

Hearnet.com is our interactive website that is updated regularly, providing information and resources on tinnitus, hearing loss, hearing evaluation referrals, hearing protection, musicians earplugs and hearing devices), as well as a referral service of audiology and ear doctors HEAR partners, and entertainment links.  

In addition to distributing information, H.E.A.R. conducts hearing evaluation clinics in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as producing school programs, and public service announcements with music celebrities for national radio, TV and cable networks. H.E.A.R. has established H.E.A.R. Partners worldwide. 

Punk Globe: Tell us about the early days with the organization and how far you have come as an individual and an organization. 

Kathy:   Ginger, it’s been a whirlwind. The tipping point was the outstanding support forms Pete Townshend of the Who in 1989 helping us to go international in the media with our hearing health message with coverage in Rolling Stone Magazine. We also had stories in Time Magazine and People Magazine in the early days that really helped.

Building the organization and getting our information out to the schools, music professionals, hearing health professionals and the media has really been a challenge but a rewarding one.


Punk Globe: I know that you have fought and won many battles to keep H.E.A.R. going. Do you care to elaborate?  

Kathy:  It’s all part of developing as an organization. If it weren’t scary it wouldn’t be any fun, says my friend Dennis McNally publicist for the Grateful Dead. There was a dispute in the Federal trademark court with hearing health corporations battling over our website HEARNET.COM. That was a hardship but we prevailed. 

Punk Globe: Tell the readers about some of the very prominent professionals you have on your Board of Directors.

Board of Directors: 

Douglas L. Beck Au.D. is the Editor-In-Chief of three leading websites addressing communication disorders www.audiologyonline.com for hearing healthcare professionals, www.healthyhearing.com for consumers and patients, and www.speechpathology.com for Speech Language Pathologists). Dr. Beck earned his Master's Degree in audiology in 1984 from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and his doctorate from the University of Florida at Gainesville, in 2000. Dr. Beck started his career in the early 1980s at the House Ear Institute where he specialized in cochlear implant research and intraoperative cranial nerve monitoring. He was appointed to the medical school faculty as Director of Audiology at Saint Louis University Medical School from the late 1980s through the mid 1990s. After leaving the university, he started a private audiology practice. He moved to San Antonio in 2001 to joinwww.audiologyonline.com. Dr. Beck has published many articles addressing hearing, hearing loss, hearing aids, cochlear implants, intraoperative monitoring, electrophysiology, professional politics, and he has lectured internationally on these same topics. Dr. Beck is a highly sought-after lecturer and author. He was appointed to the Board of Directors of H.E.A.R. in 2003.  

John Doyle, ESQ. is Secretary of the H.E.A.R. Board of Directors. Hearing Impaired since birth, he is an attorney specializing in appellate and civil rights litigation. His involvement with H.E.A.R. is only one example of the many ways he works with disadvantaged groups.  

Dr. Jerome Goldstein is the Senior Executive Vice President Emeritus of The American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery and a Board of Director of the Deafness Research Foundation, SHHH and Sertoma. He is based in Florida. 

Flash Gordon, MD, is a primary care physician living in San Francisco. He's now in private practice in Greenbrae, California, and founded Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (H.E.A.R.) along with Kathy Peck. For more information, or to contact flash, see flashgordonmd.com. 

Mont Stong, Au.D , is an technical audiology advisor. Mont has volunteered his audiology services since the formation of H.E.A.R.'s Clinic Program in 1989. 

Punk Globe: How about some of the many awards and achievements you have been given?

Here are some of our achievements.

Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers, (H.E.A.R. ®) Is First in Musicians’ Hearing Education. First hearing health nonprofit:  

  • To receive the prestigious “Leadership Award” from The National Council on Communication Disorders for its pioneering work in educating musicians and music listeners to the dangers of hearing loss and tinnitus from loud music. (Washington, DC, 1989)

  • To work with popular international recording artists spokespersons, such as Pete Townshend of the Who, on hearing education awareness issues. (H.E.A.R.® National Public Service Campaign, 1989)

  • To collaborate on a video documentary “ Can’t H.E.A.R. You Knocking ™ ”with a foreign country and receive international and national film awards for its efforts. (Flynner Films, Sweden,1990)

  • To become established on the internet. (HEARNET.COM ™, 1995)

  • To distribute hearing protection and hearing information on a US and Canadian Music Tours. (Lollapalooza Tour’s 30 cities, 1996)

  • To provide a curriculum hearing health science program for high schools (“ Can’t H.E.A.R. You Knocking ™ ”, video and Active Physics™ textbook funded by The National Science Foundation and The American Association of Physics Teachers, 1998)

  • To launch an independent record label (H.E.A.R. Records ™) on HEARNET.COM to celebrate music and musicians while promoting the value of protecting your most important musical instrument.... your ears. (H.E.A.R. This CD ™, 1998)

  • To work with MTV on its first televised award winning health documentary on musicians’ hearing loss and tinnitus issues. (MTV® - MEGA DOSE Segment, 1999)

  • To pass an Earplug Ordinance for San Francisco Music and Entertainment Venues. (SF, 2002)

  • To launch a national hearing health campaign with a major manufacturer of hearing products and a Grammy ® award winning music celebrity spokesperson. (Energizer ® EZ Change ® Batteries “It’s Hip to H.E.A.R.™ ” Program with Pat Benatar, 2004 and Mick Fleetwood 2005)

Punk Globe: You recently were featured in a cover story in News Week and I was shocked by the number of people who suffer hearing loss?  

Kathy:  60% of the inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are hearing impaired. Americans are facing hearing loss earlier, affecting life at home, work and play. 

There are more baby boomers aged 45-64 with hearing loss (10 million) than there are people over the age of 65 with hearing loss (9 million). 

Punk Globe: It was amazing to read that not all hearing loss is caused by loud music. 

Kathy: The first indications of hearing loss are often subtle and usually ignored. Difficulty following conversations in a noisy environment, a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears, and a high-pitched ringing or buzzing in the ears are some of the warning signs that something is wrong. 

The symptoms may appear for no apparent reason and may be temporary at first, but may become permanent with repeated exposure. Sounds that can result in hearing loss include live rock concerts, chain saws, power mowers, and other noisy recreational activities. The reason why? Loud sound first destroys the hair cells in the inner ear that respond to high pitches. These are the sounds that enable you to distinguish one word from another.  

More than 28 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, which may be due to an ear disease, a middle ear disorder or an inner ear problem. Investigation of the causes of hearing and related disorders is hampered by the fact that the extremely hard temporal bone completely encases the hearing and balance organs, making them inaccessible for study during an individual's lifetime.  

A disorder of the middle ear such as ear infection, wax build-up or eardrum perforation may impede the mobility of the three small ear bones, the hammer, anvil and stirrup. This disrupts the conversion of sound waves or acoustic energy into mechanical energy and conductive loss results. 

Sensorineural hearing loss, or nerve deafness, occurs when the sensory cells in the hearing organ or cochlea are permanently damaged. This may be due to a variety of factors including hereditary disorders, ear disease, aging, over-exposure to sound or an adverse effect to drugs. 

Punk Globe: In an interview I did with Jim Verraro(American Idol) . He told us that his both parents lost their hearing after a bout with German Measles. Do you ever treat people such as his parents?  

Kathy:  That is a medical condition. We would refer people to an ENT doctor or Otolaryngologist for an ear exam and an audiologist for a full hearing evaluation. 

Punk Globe: Can you tell me about a normal day when you see patients at your office? 

Kathy:  We refer to them as clients because we are not seeing them for medical treatment.

We make custom musicians earplugs and custom fit molds for personal ear monitors.

We also give a free hearing screening. If there is a medical condition or hearing damage we refer folks to our HEAR Partner audiologists and Ear Doctors. H.E.A.R. has HEAR Partners in many cities throughout the US. They can be accessed at www.hearnet.com

To take a hearing test online, find musicians ear earplugs or to find an audiologist in your area, log onto http://www.hearnet.com.  

Musicians Earplugs are designed to replicate the natural response of the open ear. Sound heard with these earplugs has the same quality as the original, only quieter. The result is that speech and music are clear--you still hear the blend clearly, feel the bass, and distinguish each tone. 

Accurate sound reduction is achieved by combining a patented filter with the specific acoustics of a custom earmold. The combination of the two produces a resonance at approximately 2700 Hz (as in the normal ear) resulting in a smooth, flat attenuation. 

Three types of attenuator buttons are available: ER•9, ER•15 and ER•25. The number corresponds with the amount of sound reduction provided in dB.  

Personal Ear Monitors place the performer in a completely customized listening environment. This environment is free from feedback, excessive stage volume, and the acoustical variability typically associated with conventional wedge / side fill monitor systems. 

Every Personal Ear Monitor set is custom fitted, and designed to be operated at safer output levels than conventional monitor systems. Personal Ear Monitors form a secure and comfortable acoustical seal, conforming perfectly to the natural configurations of each individual ear. The high fidelity audio quality allows performers to hear themselves with studio-quality clarity. We have made personal ear monitors for many touring recording artists. 

Even Apple iPod ®, portable computers, portable DVDs and recording studios are now enjoying the excellence of personal monitors for their best performances. Professional, performance grade products make nearly any audio device sound its best. 

Punk Globe: You have filmed many PSA's with all sorts of Musicians supporting H.E.A.R. and your efforts. Give us some of the artist names. They are very impressive. 

Kathy:  You can check some of them out at

We have worked with Jack Black, Pete Townshend, Ray Charles, Green Day, Missy Elliott, Pat Benatar and many more. 

Punk Globe: Tell us about "H.E.A.R. This" out on Sub City Records?

Kathy:  Working with you on H.E.A.R.This was a great experience. We had the best of old school and new school PUNK, Dirk Dirksen the Pope of PUNK, Mary Monday, The Contractions, The Lewd, The White Trash Debutantes, Link 80, BelRays and lots more great bands! 


Punk Globe: Although, you have gotten so much acclaim H.E.A.R. is still very grassroots. How can readers support the organization?

Kathy:  Thanks Ginger. They can support us by putting a link to www.hearnet.com. Or donating an item to our auction, or even give a tax-deductible contribution.

They can find out more how to contribute by going to our website http://www.hearnet.com/help/help_index.shtml 

Punk Globe: Do you miss playing music? Yes. Occasionally, I sing and play the bass.

Kathy:  I recently sang at Spencer Dryden’s benefit with Pete Sears from the Jefferson Starship , Nick Buck , Peter Kaukonen and Naomi Ruth Eisenberg and at the Black and White Ball 2003 with the Contractions for a reunion. 

Punk Globe: Tell the readers about future plans with H.E.A.R. 

Kathy:  Currently, I am working with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra making custom musician earplugs. We are also working with videographers Dirk Dirksen and Damon Molloy

( www.outspokenideas.com) on the updated DVD version of our award winning documentary “ Can’t Hear You Knocking”. 

We host the Music and Sound Auction on eBay with Mix Foundation and the House Ear Institute raising funds for hearing health programs. Look on
www.hearnet.com for updates on the auction. We have lots of great recording gear and autographed memorabilia. Finally, we are conducting research that has spans over 15 years on hearing loss and tinnitus in the Music Industry. 

Punk Globe: You have also been working with Music Cares. Is there a cross over with your organizations? 

Kathy:  We work really like working with MusiCares at the National Association for Music Manufacturers (NAMM) and the Audio Engineering Society.  

Since 1989, MusiCares' Emergency Financial Assistance Program has been helping music people across the country cope with financial hardships and crises. It provides totally confidential crisis intervention, health care referrals and financial assistance. MusiCares' confidential and caring approach allows those in need to seek help with dignity and confidence.. 

H.E.A.R. is a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of hearing loss and tinnitus among musicians and music fans through education and grassroots advocacy. With support from, the music industry, musicians, audiologists, physicians, hearing health organizations, health manufacturers and individual donors, H.E.A.R. is helping to raise awareness of the real dangers of repeated exposure to excessive noise levels from music.  

Punk Globe: Any last comments Kathy?

Kathy:   Bless you for your ambition and drive to keep such a worthwhile organization going for the people and NOT for the money. 

I just want to say how thrilled I am to have the PUNK Globe back and in action on the net. Ginger you are a great interviewer with a wonderful sense of humor and a great band. Congratulations! Keep on doing it!  


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