Listening for the Noise You Can’t Always Hear

Children’s hearing loss: How to identify and prevent the threats to your kids’ hearing.

Plucking out your earbuds at the end of an especially enthusiastic workout. Exiting the theater after watching the latest action movie sequel. You know instantly when your hearing’s off. But the threats to your kids’ hearing aren’t always so easy to identify.

A National Hearing Conservation Association survey of 110 children, ages 6 to 14, found that their average daytime noise level was equivalent to city traffic. And out on the playground, it reached the same heights as a busy subway stop or a concert.

Hearing loss in children is a growing concern. Three million people under the age of 18 in this country have some degree of it. The increasingly constant barrage of noise poses an even larger threat to them, impairing their language, reading and learning skills and sabotaging their social interactions.

Noise Awareness Day, April 27, is a good reminder to pay closer attention to your home environment and kids’ activities. Test the noise levels of their toys. Anything louder than a power tool, throw away. Keep the TV volume at a suitable level, especially when they’re playing video games, which can get as loud as a jackhammer. If you have to shout to be heard from three feet away, it’s too loud. And educate them on the damage that can be done by listening to loud music through earbuds or headphones for long stretches.
Help your children appreciate how valuable a little quiet can be. Read to them. Or encourage them to read on their own. Turn dinner into more than a meal. While everyone’s gathered around the table, talk to them. Be sure to listen, too.

Finally, keep an eye out for the warning signs of noise-induced hearing loss (ringing in the ears, muffled-sounding speech). If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with your pediatrician or a licensed audiologist. Though permanent, noise-induced hearing loss is preventable.

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