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Sound Advice - How to Protect Your Children From Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Sound Advice - How to Protect Your Children From Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

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.

Educate early

Says Raney, “If you teach your child how to protect their hearing now, they will have better hearing when they are older.”

Get checked

Parents who are concerned about their child’s hearing should contact an audiologist or otolaryngologist.

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