Your child’s world is a noisy place. Outside, fire trucks, leaf blowers, and garbage trucks are all fascinating to young children. While you may think you are keeping them safe by not allowing them to get close to these things, the noise these machines make may be actually be damaging their hearing.
Even indoors, potentially-harmful noises abound. High-tech surround sound systems may give you movie-theater quality sound in your living room, but it can also be loud enough to damage hearing.
So what should you do to protect your child’s hearing in a world full of noise? Start by teaching them how loud is too loud.
Noise Levels That Can Damage Hearing
Even young children know how to use a remote control to turn up the volume on the TV. Use this skill to introduce children to the concept of noise level. Understanding from an early age just what “too loud” means can help children control their own environments to protect their hearing. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recommends using hearing protection when noise levels exceed 85 decibels for an extended period of time. Using this as a starting point, children can map unsafe noises around the house, such as the following:
|88 decibels||Hearing is damaged in 4 hours||Lawn mower, city traffic|
|91 decibels||Hearing is damaged in 2 hours||Hairdryer, garbage disposal|
|94 decibels||Hearing is damaged in 1 hour||Electric drill|
|97 decibels||Hearing is damaged in 30 minutes||Motorcycle|
|100 decibels||Hearing is damaged in 15 minutes||iPod, snowblower|
|115 decibels||Hearing is damaged in 30 seconds||Leaf blower, stadium football game|
|120 decibels||Hearing is damaged in less than 8 seconds||Rock concert, siren|
|125 decibels||Pain threshold||Fire alarm, firecracker|
|140 decibels||Immediate danger to hearing||Jet engine at take-off, gunshot|
Once children—and adults as well—have an idea of just what damage certain sounds can cause, you can begin to create a safer sound environment for them and teach them some strategies for protecting themselves.
Teach Good Habits Early
Some of the greatest sounds in the world are the quietest—the rush of wind through leaves, the purr of a happy cat, a whisper from a friend. Teach your child the value of her hearing by exposing her to these wonderful, subtle noises. Have her find quiet sounds that she really likes, then make the point that if her hearing is damaged by loud noises, she won’t be able to hear the soft noises as well. The following strategies are for anyone who wants to protect his or her hearing, but are especially useful when instilled at a young age:
- Reduce noise at the source. Whenever possible, lower the amount of noise in and around your home. Keeping tools and equipment in good condition can keep them quieter and, when purchasing new yard or home improvement tools, consider noise output before purchasing. Keep the volume on the television at a reasonable level, despite what the speaker system might be capable of.
- Use earbuds and headphones responsibly. To this generation of children, plugging in to a device and popping on a set of headphones is second nature. Teach your child what is an acceptable volume for her device. Mark the volume setting and insist she not go any higher. When she has headphones or earbuds on, she should still be able to hear you talking at normal volume. If she cannot hear you, her volume is too high.
- Wear hearing protection. It’s up to you to be a good role model with this strategy. Wearing protective headphones when mowing the lawn, using power tools, or at a loud concert is not only important for your hearing health, but demonstrates good habits for your child. Teach her to plug her ears with her fingers when smoke alarms or sirens go off, and give her own pair of protective headphones for when she helps you in the yard or plays nearby.
- Respect your child’s sensitivity. If your child is bothered by the volume at the movie theater or at outdoor concerts, encourage her to use earmuffs or noise-cancelling headphones rather than expecting her to get used to the noise level. Sensitivity to sound is a good thing—protect it!
Get Hearing Problems Diagnosed Early
Despite your efforts to create an environment that is safe for your child’s hearing, you may notice signs of hearing loss. If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing, don’t hesitate to get it checked out. Compromised hearing in children can lead to delays in speech and language learning, reduced academic achievement, and can contribute to social isolation. Schedule a visit to a Premier Hearing Care Center near you.