From explosive cheers at a game to the latest hit blasted at top volume,
high-decibel sounds can cause permanent hearing loss in people of all
ages. In 2015, the World Health Organization estimated that some 1.1 billion
teens and young adults worldwide are at risk for noise-induced hearing
loss (NIHL) due to clamorous entertainment venues; unsafe use of personal
audio devices; and exposure to extra-loud power tools, machinery and the
like. “Excessive noise can damage hair cells in your inner ear,” says
Natalie Raney, AuD, CCC-A, a clinical audiologist at Valley Health Ear, Nose and Throat. “If
you keep exposing yourself to loud noises, eventually your hearing won’t
recover.” Thankfully, NIHL is preventable; here are steps parents
can take to safeguard their children’s hearing.
Know how much is too much
Long or repeated exposure to sounds above 85 decibels can cause hearing
loss, so hearing protection should be worn when you’re exposed to
sounds over that level. If you can’t avoid exposure above 85 decibels,
then limit the time of your exposure. “The louder the sound, the
less time you should be exposed to it,” says Raney. “For perspective,
the sound level of an average conversation is
60 decibels; personal listening devices usually go up to 115 decibels.”
Set volume control limits
Parents can password-protect sound restriction settings on iPhones and
iPads, and there are also smartphone apps that limit audio or that work
as sound level meters. “Sound meters measure the decibel level of
music at a concert or how loud a toy is,” says Raney. Many TVs also
allow users to set a maximum volume.
Invest in the right gear
Parents should make sure their children are using over-the-ear, noise-canceling
headphones or hearing protection such as earplugs or over-ear muffs when
exposed to excessive noise at concerts, sporting events and firing ranges,
for example, or when using noisy equipment like lawn mowers or ATVs.
Says Raney, “If you teach your child how to protect their hearing
now, they will have better hearing when they are older.”
Parents who are concerned about their child’s hearing should contact
an audiologist or otolaryngologist.
valleyhealthlink.com/ENT for more information.