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The Mountaineer Online

Parents: Take steps to protect your child’s hearing

Michelle Lobaito, LPN

Army Public Health Nursing, MEDDAC

Kids enjoy music, phone calls and video games through advances in technology more than ever, but at what price? With increasing popularity of these technologies, millions of children are at potential risk of Noise Induced Hearing Loss.
NIHL is caused by exposure to loud sounds over a period of time. However, it can occur from one exposure to an extremely loud noise. NIHL is irreversible, and it can happen at any age. Symptoms may be temporary, but the damage is permanent.
Even minimal hearing loss can affect social interaction, communication skills, behavior, emotional development and academic performance.
A poll commissioned by the American Speech-Language-Hea-ring Association found more than half of high school students surveyed report at least one symptom of hearing loss. The risk of hearing damage starts at 85 Decibels (dB). To put this number in perspective, everyday activities such as a normal conversation is 60dB; a lawn mower is 90dB; mp3 players at full volume are 100 dB; concerts, cars, monster trucks and sporting events are 110 dB.
In many workplaces, employers require the use of hearing protection where noise levels exceed 85dB. However, children ages eight to 18 devote an average of more than seven hours a day to using entertainment media (more than 53 hours a week) without a thought of protecting their hearing. Teach your children to know when loud is too loud.

It is too loud if:

  • You must raise your voice to be heard.
  • You have difficulty understanding someone who is an arm’s length away.
  • You have pain, ringing, or buzzing in your ears after exposure to loud sounds.
  • Speech sounds muffled or dull after noise exposure.

Whether it is an mp3 player, gaming device, cell phone, laptop or any other device that your child uses with headphones, don’t overlook a potential health threat. Recent studies have shown that prolonged exposure to high-volume music through headphones, particularly the earbud-style hea-dphones that you push directly into the ear, can seriously impair hearing.
Children’s toys are often extremely noisy. Some types of battery-operated toy guns, dolls or trucks can create noise levels from 110-135dB, corresponding to the noise generated by a rock concert or an airliner at take-off. Less, but consistent noise from musical toys (85-95dB) also can be damaging. Other everyday exposures, such as cinemas or being in a car with the radio turned up loudly, all put hearing at risk.

Warning signs
Noise Induced Hearing Loss may be present if a person:

  • Frequently misunderstands what is said and wants things repeated.
  • Needs to turn up the volume on the television or radio.
    wHas difficulty listening or paying attention when there is noise in the background.
  • Has a speech and/or language problem.
  • Has trouble identifying or localizing sounds.

Protect your child’s hearing the same way you protect your own. Children and teens benefit from routine hearing exams with their annual physical exam. Finding out how well they hear is fast and painless. It is very important to protect your child’s hearing, because your child has to develop, socialize and learn how to communicate while growing up.

How can you protect your children’s hearing?

  • Turn down the radio, TV and especially the headphones. The American Academy of Audiology recommends that mp3 / iPods should be played at no more than 25 percent of the available volume. You should still be able to hear conversations in your surroundings while listening to your music.
  • There are new technologies in headphones that allow parents to monitor listening levels, including headphones with lights that display green when the volume is at a safe level and red when the volume is hazardous. Many brands of headphones designed for children include volume limiting technology; these reduce the output volume so children cannot turn them up to hazardous levels.
  • Children should use hearing protection in noisy surroundings, such as concerts, motor races, cinemas and near lawn mowers, chainsaws, etc.
  • Think about noise when buying toys. If it sounds too loud to you, it is too loud for your child. You also can put masking tape over the speaker of toys to reduce the volume.
  • Keep all foreign objects out of your child’s ears and do not remove wax with fingers or cotton swabs. The ear wax is used to lubricate and clean the ear. Wax and dirt will eventually fall out of the ear by themselves. Cotton swabs make matters worse by pushing the wax down the ear canal.

If you have a child who may have a hearing, speech or language problem, have your child evaluated by his or her primary care doctor.
For more information on protecting your children’s hearing, visit The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association at and the American Academy of Audiology.


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