Your children rely on you to help them navigate through the world and to protect them from dangers, both seen and unseen. And, … when it comes to loud noise in their environment, what they cannot see can hurt them — therefore they need you to look out for them and set a good example.
Hearing is an extremely important sense. One which allows us to learn, develop language skills, communicate and socialize throughout our lives. Permanent hearing loss that may be caused by exposure to damaging noise is quite preventable. For this reason awareness of our noise environment is important if we wish to protect our children from the damage that may be caused by exposure to everyday sounds.
We generally think of damaging noise as being the sounds generated by industrial noise and power tools. However, if we consider all of the potentially damaging noises our children are exposed to every day of their lives, we will see the list grow to include events and items that had previously seemed to be commonplace.
Children of all ages may be repeatedly exposed to transportation noise from trains, subways, airplanes, trucks, motorcycles, dirt bikes, etc. Loud music is often played at home, exercise centers, and restaurants. Even everyday household items such as hair dryers, iPods, power tools, lawn movers, etc. – all generate loud noise. TOYS – both electronic and mechanical, as well as horns, musical instruments, school bands and sirens … all bombard our hearing on a daily basis.
According to Paul R. Kileny, Ph.D., Director of Audiology and Electrophysiology at the University of Michigan Health Systems’ Department of Otolaryngology: “Children’s hearing is particularly sensitive. While the inner ear is completely developed at birth and has the complete complement of hair cells, the ear canal is much smaller, and sounds entering the ear canal become louder because they develop in a smaller space. That can translate into as much as a 20 decibel difference between an adult ear and an infant’s ear. Thus infants’ ears can be damaged more easily than adults’ hearing.”
One particularly disturbing occurrence that I became aware of during my career involved a young child who had accompanied their parent on numerous trips to the shooting range. Naturally, the parent shooting the gun wore ear protection; however failure to consider the child standing not far behind him quickly became important when the child began to exhibit signs of hearing loss. A subsequent hearing evaluation of the child revealed that, indeed, the child was suffering from a permanent noise induced hearing loss.
How loud is TOO LOUD?
Children may not always be capable of expressing themselves as far as letting us know that certain noise is hurting their ears. A simple, but useful guideline is that if you need to shout to be heard over noise it is likely that the noise is having a detrimental effect. If sound from a headset/headphones/ear buds can be heard by others who are three or more feet away it is TOO LOUD! If your actions show your child that hearing protection is important to you, it will become important to your child, and they will develop an awareness of the noise environment which surrounds them. Be a good role model.