KidsAudiologist

Protecting young ears from noise

Posted on: September 4, 2011

My 3 year old niece came home from their local carnival and funfair recently and said that she didn’t like the noise. She’s not a child who is particularly sensitive to noise and doesn’t suffer with hyperacusis so I assume it must have been pretty loud and overwhelming. Lots of kids are lucky to never encounter an audiologist but unfortuantely for her she has one as an aunt, so of course I got straight on the internet and purchased her a pair of ear defenders designed especially for children. I chose her favourite colour (pink) and they were immediately a hit. Here she is at the motor racing last weekend and she was very happy all day there in the noise.

Colour coordinated & ear safe at the racing

If children regularly take part in noisy leisure activities I would recommended that they always use hearing protection as excessive exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss. We don’t have a lot of information about the effects of noise on babies and young children because noise damage is cumulative (adds up over the years) and doesn’t generally show up until adulthood, but excessive noise exposure is based both on the level of sound (in decibels) as well as the length of time you are exposed to it. So it is possible that longer, lower exposure can do as much damage as shorter, high level exposure. Noise does not have to be uncomfortably loud or painful in order to damage the ears. As a very general and crude rule of thumb, if you need to raise your voice over the noise to have a normal conversation then the noise level could potentially harm the hearing and participants should consider using ear protection for that activity. Based on the knowledge of the long-term effects of noise on adults hearing we should be cautious about children when their hearing is most sensitive. The ear muffs I chose were by Peltor and are suitable for babies and young children. Apart from my niece they have recently been seen in the press worn by Apple Martin, daughter of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, on the babies of the Spice Girl’s during their reunion tour, and on Danni Minogue’s son Ethan on the X-Factor. Peltor Kid Ear Defenders can be purchased from a number of websites.

Apple Martin with mum Gwenyth Paltrow at Live 8

It’s also worth thinking about children’s toys, some of which have been shown to have very high volumes and remember that children will tend to hold toys very close to their ears. Have a look at the Sight & Hearing Association’s 2010 Noisy Toys List for an idea of the types of toys I’m talking about. Try to limit use of noisy toys and try to prevent young children holding them close to their ears.

As children get older start to think about their use of headphones for listening to music, computers etc. Some MP3 and iPod players come with noise-limiting software that prevents the volume being increased above safe levels. If the player doesn’t come with this software it can sometimes be downloaded after purchase. Try to ensure that children take regular breaks from using headphones. Set the volume of the player in quiet surroundings and avoid turning it up in background noise which can increase the total noise level above safe levels. Good quality noise cancelling headphones are available on the market that help to reduce the effects of background noise and therefore enable the volume to be kept lower. If children use hearing aids it is possible to use special adapters that link the player to the hearing aids directly so that they benefit from the personal amplification programming of the hearing aids. For further information about how this is done contact the NDCS Technology Team for further advice.

Some useful Websites:

Listen To Your Buds Making Kids Safe in Sound

It’s A Noisy Planet Protect their hearing

Noise Help Child-friendly hearing protection options

Made for Mums Heading to a festival with your baby

Next time – Protecting teenage ears from noise

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