While screaming sirens may be a necessary evil, the throbbing bass beat rattling the car stopped next to yours is not. Exposure to noise pollution and audio abuse, defined as listening to music at a loud volume with headphones, causes hearing loss. Loud sounds stress and eventually damage, the fine hairs of the inner ear which turn mechanical vibrations into signals our brain recognizes as sound. Hearing loss happens when the hair cells stop working due to long-term exposure to noise or extreme loud noises. There are simple ways to protect your child’s hearing and prevent noise abuse. 

Loud music used to be easy to avoid as long as you stayed away from clubs, bars and rock concerts. However, with the rising popularity of personal CD and  MP3 players that allow a person to enjoy music through headphones, many people may risk losing their hearing due to hazardous noise exposure. As many as 5 million children and teens suffer some degree of hearing loss from exposure to levels of hazardous noise, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Kids can protect their hearing by learning how to safely use a personal music player. Use these tips to help your child learn when the volume is too loud for safe listening:

• Others can hear noise or music when a person is listening to a personal music player with headphones.

• Others must raise their voice to be heard.

• Your child cannot understand someone who is speaking about two feet away.

• You child suffers from buzzing, ringing or pain in their ears after listening to music with headphones.

• Voices sound muffled or low after listening to music with a personal music player.

Headphones have become popular with kids of all ages.Credit: Terren in VirginiaCredit: Terren in Virginia

Teach Kids How to Protect Their Hearing

Limiting listening time with a personal music player offers the best way to protect your child’s hearing. Noise exposure affects people differently and some people may be more susceptible to hearing loss. Most people can avoid hearing loss, by listening to personal music players for an hour a day, with the volume set to about 60 percent of the maximum sound level.

It can be difficult to choose a safe volume level in areas with loud background noise. For best results, kids should set the volume on their personal music player in a quiet location. Consider buying your child a pair of ear buds which block background noise.  Based on the results of a study conducted by Children’s Hospital Boston, 80 percent of those using this type of headphone set volumes at safer levels, even in locations with a high level of background noise.

Protect the hearing of young children by carefully considering the purchase of toys which make noise. A personal listening device is generally not recommended for toddlers since it can be difficult for them to know when sounds may reach an unsafe level. If a toy comes with a headset, consider it safe to purchase only if it offers parental controls to prevent your child from accidentally raising the volume to an unsafe level.

Test toys at the store to protect your child from an unsafe level of noise. Hold the toy up to your ear as it plays sounds or music. If the sound causes discomfort such as ringing or buzzing in the ears or speech around you sounds muffled, the sounds could damage your child’s hearing. These types of toys should not be purchased for babies and young children. Also test toys you may already own. Discard unsafe toys or take out batteries.

Toddlers will let you know when it's too loud.

Everyday Activities and Illness Can Harm Your Child's Hearing

Many common activities can potentially damage your child’s hearing as they grow older. Lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other garden equipment often produce unsafe levels of noise. Noise levels at professional sporting events and rock concerts taking place indoors all pose a danger to your child’s hearing. Ear plugs from a pharmacy protect hearing at a low cost. They reduce sound levels from 15 – 30 decibels, a safer noise level, but don’t prevent your children from participating in these kinds of activities.

Monitor the volume if your child plays with regular and handheld gaming systems, especially when they use headphones while playing. If your child plays a musical instrument such as the drums or electric guitar, consider having custom earplugs made to protect their hearing. Your child should always use proper ear protection if they participate in target shooting activities.

Health ailments such as ear infections can affect your child’s hearing as well. Be sure to monitor your child for these conditions and get prompt treatment to prevent hearing loss from severe infections. When cleaning wax out of ears, objects should never be inserted in the ear canal. Cleaning should be limited to the outer ear area only. Remind kids to never put small toys and other items into their ears.

Some people are more susceptible to hearing loss from noise abuse and pollution. Err on the side of caution to protect your child’s hearing, by limiting their exposure to loud noise as much as possible. While you can’t protect your child from all noise, you can limit the amount of time they spend using headphones for playing games or listening to music. Ear plugs offer a way to protect your child’s hearing in public places where it’s not possible to control their exposure to high noise levels. Instill good habits in your child to protect their hearing for a lifetime.

Car with GIANT SPEAKERS.Credit: sdbjCredit: sdbj