There is a common misconception that noise-induced hearing loss is a condition that only affects older people. The truth is that noise-induced hearing loss can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. Even children. It’s time to rethink hearing loss and the importance of protecting our hearing right from the beginning to prevent loss down the road.
What is noise-induced hearing loss?
As the name suggests, noise-induced hearing loss is the result of unsafe levels of noise that damage the delicate inner ear and its ability to capture and translate sounds to the brain. Whether it’s a short-term, extra high level of decibels or a long-term, unsafe level of decibels, there is a high risk of permanent damage and hearing loss.
There is still some debate over what decibel level is safe over an extended period of time. In the United States, some groups consider 85 decibels safe, some specify 70 decibels, and some stress that even sounds over 55 decibels can do damage over the long term. To give you an idea of what those levels sound like:
- Refrigerator = 50 decibels
- Normal conversation = 60 decibels
- Washing machine = 70 decibels
- An MP3 player at maximum volume = 105 decibels
- Car horn = 110 decibels
Making a case for early protection
Researchers warn that “noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is thought to be one of the major causes of preventable hearing loss. Approximately 10 million adults and 5.2 million children in the US already have irreversible noise-induced hearing impairment, and thirty million more are exposed to dangerous levels of noise each day.”
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders stresses that “exposure to harmful noise can happen at any age…Researchers have also estimated that as many as 17 percent of teens (ages 12 to 19) have features of their hearing test suggestive of NIHL in one or both ears (Pediatrics 2011 (link is external)), based on data from 2005-2006.”
As our world continues to grow noisier, protecting everyone’s hearing from noise-induced hearing loss is now more critical than ever.
How to prevent noise-induced hearing loss
Once an afterthought for children, teens and young adults, hearing protection is now coming to the forefront as a must for long-term hearing health. There are several ways to help prevent noise-induced hearing loss including:
Schedule hearing evaluations for the whole family
This is an essential first step to preventing and monitoring hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss especially is gradual and may take years to detect without a professional evaluation. Getting a baseline and prevention recommendations from a hearing health care provider is a smart choice for people of all ages.
Keep hearing protection on hand
Ear plugs, ear molds, noise-canceling headphones and similar solutions can help to reduce your child’s inner ear’s exposure to noise. Having your child wear these devices to loud movies and events can go a long way towards preventing noise-induced hearing loss in the future.
Minimize the decibels
Be aware of the noises around you and your family. Televisions, radios, toys, etc. can be louder than you think, especially for young ears. In fact, in 2011, the Sight & Hearing Association (SHA), a Minnesota-based non-profit organization, reported that over 20 toys they tested for noise levels created sounds louder than 100 dB.
Today’s noisy world doesn’t have to damage your child’s hearing. Help prevent your child from developing noise-induced hearing loss by taking steps now. Contact our office for more information on noise-induced hearing loss and how to avoid it or to schedule your child’s next hearing evaluation.