For parents everywhere, protecting your kids is the thing you worry about the most. Are they safe at school, on their way to their friend’s house, or playing in the backyard? You know what it’s like to worry for your kids’ safety, but have you thought about their hearing?
Hearing loss is one of the most common health concerns in the US, affecting nearly 34 million Americans. Children also risk hearing loss, and in recent years we’ve seen a steep increase in childhood and young adult hearing loss.
Why Are Kids Suffering from Hearing Loss?
In this new age of technology, we live our lives plugged in. We’re staring at our phones, computers, and TVs all the time, and our kids sit on the couch with an iPad and headphones for hours at a time. Aside from everyday loud sounds like noisy classrooms and crowded city streets, children risk hearing loss from overusing earbuds and headphones, which cause permanent damage to their hearing and lead to hearing loss. As they listen to loud sounds being blasted right into the ear canal, it’s no wonder rates of childhood hearing loss are on the rise.
How Loud is Too Loud?
Common sense tells us that the louder the volume is, the shorter the amount of time you can safely listen. Listening at high volumes for hours at a time is sure to do a lot of damage. A great rule of thumb is the 60/60 rule. It’s advised to never listen at volumes exceeding 60%, and to only listen for 60 minutes at a time, then take a break. This will insure that you’re not exposing your ears to dangerously loud noises for a long time.
Phones and iPods can be very loud, and cranking up the volume will lead to hearing loss. Some can even reach 120 decibels. That’s the same volume as a jackhammer! Imagine standing beside a jackhammer for even a few minutes. Your ears would be ringing, and it would soon become physically painful. Your kids might be listening at this volume, and there’s no question that their hearing will be damaged! At 70% or 80% volume, your child can listen safely for an hour or two, but turn it all the way up, and even 10 minutes will lead to noise induced hearing loss.
How to Protect Your Child’s hearing
It might be time to rethink that birthday gift, and invest in a better set of headphones. One option is to buy noise cancelling headphones which block distracting background sounds, and keeps your kid from reaching for the volume control.
Another option for headphones is custom-made headphones, like the ones made by pediatric audiologist Brian Fligor at Lantos Technologies. These 3D printed headphones are designed to fit the ear perfectly, drowning out even more background sounds, and keeping hearing safe.
The most important thing you can do is monitor the volume on your child’s headphones. Some devices can be set to restrict how much you can crank up the volume, and this can save your child’s hearing. There are also apps that measure decibel levels, so you can see how much noise exposure your child is getting. “Worldwide, roughly one billion people are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss from using portable listening devices,” Fligor says. This is a serious issue, and certainly requires your time and attention.
Education is Key
An Ohio school in Cleveland Heights is taking steps to protect their students’ hearing through education. The Dangerous Decibels program is teaching 5th graders how to listen safely. The program teaches students how the ear works, how sound travels to the brain, and how excessive noise damages hearing. Sharon Sandridge, the audiologist in charge of the Dangerous Decibels program, reminds us that it only takes one exposure to very loud noises to permanently damage the ear.
To protect your kids, teach them about hearing loss and hearing health. If they know the signs of hearing loss and recognize the importance of protecting their hearing, it will be easier to teach them safe listening practices.
If you think your child has hearing loss, call us today at one of our My Hearing Centers locations to book an appointment for a hearing test. We’ll discuss treatment options, and give you more pointers on how to keep your kid’s hearing safe.