Widespread use of personal audio technology and other smart devices is putting kids at risk for hearing loss. Get our tips on how to help avoid noise-induced hearing loss.
Parents usually worry about how excessive screen time can lead to obesity, anxiety or depression, and poor vision. But they often forget about hearing. According to the CDC, 12.5% of kids and teens have suffered from permanent hearing damage from excessive exposure to noise. The Hearing Journal estimates hearing damage from loud and repeated sound exposure affects 1 in 6 children by the end of their teenage years. And the WHO estimates that 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk for hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise.
It is critical that parents protect their children’s hearing from loud noise because once the inner ear is damaged it cannot be corrected. Hearing is key to communication, speech, language and of course learning. The loss of hearing, even moderate loss, can lead to poor academic performance. The good news is that hearing loss is highly preventable. Here are some tips to help you prevent noise-induced hearing loss in your child.
How to prevent hearing loss in children
- Technology. Today’s widespread use of ear buds, headphones and noisy technology are some of the main sources of noise-induced hearing loss for kids. Making sure you have control over the volume of these devices is a great place to start. Surprisingly there are no mandatory volume maximums for listening devices in the US, so keeping them at safe levels is in parents’ hands. According to the WHO and the Telecommunications Union, children should listen to devices at volumes no higher than 75 decibels (not the sometimes labeled ‘kid safe’ level of 85 or 90 decibels) for no longer than 40 hours a week.
- Toys. Even toys sold with seemingly safe sound levels can damage hearing if a child holds it right up to their ear. It’s best to avoid noisy toys, and put tape over the speaker on those you already have. Here is a list of Noisy Toys from the Sight and Hearing Association.
- Events. Concerts (120 decibels) and race tracks (100 decibels) are not safe places for children’s ears. When attending these kinds of events with kids or teens, make sure they are wearing ear protection, such as ear plugs or ear muffs. Keep a distance from loudspeakers or the track. (This goes for adults too!). Here is a list of harmful noise levels from Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan.
Concerned about your child’s hearing?
If your child was exposed to very loud noise, even briefly, and you have any doubts about your child’s hearing, schedule an appointment with their doctor immediately. You may also want to read this great article from Kid’s Health to learn all the symptoms of hearing loss to look out for.
- Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (CDC)
- Tips to Protect Your Child's Hearing (The Hearing Journal)
- Tips to Preserve Your Child’s Hearing during the Holidays (Healthy Children Org.)
- Make Listening Safe (WHO)
- NoisyToysList (Sight & Hearing Association)
- Harmful Noise Levels (University of Michigan, Michigan Medicine)
- NASCAR’s quiet-car proposal met with loud gasps from some die-hard fans (Washington Post)
- Hearing Evaluation in Children (for Parents) (Nemours KidsHealth)