Kids are all ears. They hear whistles, traffic and barking dogs. They hear movies, all kinds of machinery, music and each other.
Kids live in the present, and many love noise. Of course, they aren’t thinking about their hearing later in life. They don’t know that the hair cells inside their ears allow them to hear those sounds. They don’t know that those furry cells, once damaged, won’t regrow.
But their parents should know what the Centers for Disease Control tell us about hearing loss. If we hear loud noises for a certain length of time, we “can overwork hair cells in the ear” — and those cells, once killed, are gone for good.
So, here are some things many parents don’t know about kids’ hearing, the effects of noise on kids, and how to prevent hearing loss in kids.
Everyday Noise and Your Family’s Hearing Health
A jet overhead. Kids’ joyful shouts outside the open window. A horn blast, and a garbage truck backing up. A dog barking in the yard next door. Bikers zooming past, their speakers on full volume.
Noise can feel familiar, irritating or celebratory. And it is an often-overlooked health hazard. Intrusive noises can disturb sleeping patterns, our ability to focus, and our sense of calm and well-being.
According to the National Institutes of Health, sound above 75 decibels can degrade our hearing. Back in 1974 the EPA recommended keeping our exposure to background sound down to 70 decibels and lower and recommended an indoor level of no more than 45 decibels to best preserve our well-being.
Sudden sound bursts, such as construction noises, fireworks, and amplifiers, can threaten our hearing health in just minutes. No wonder many of us begin losing our hearing in childhood. Recent research on kids and noise, such as headphone use, shows noise exposure can open the door to the cognitive issues we associate with old age.
Let’s look at how hearing damage happens to kids.
Hearing Loss in Kids: What’s the Matter?
Hearing loss in kids and teens has risen significantly in recent years. This rise is partly attributed to:
- A greater number of young people using headphones for listening to music.
- The current generation’s love for personal audio devices.
- The use of loud audio for long spans of time, which can can cause permanent hearing loss.
Hearing loss makes things harder for kids. Even relatively minor hearing losses in kids can lead to trouble learning as well as feelings of isolation and depression in young people. Kids with hearing loss have difficulty hearing subtle spoken sounds and may develop speech impediments, says the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
There are also impacts nobody can detect. This is why hearing protection for kids is so important. Hearing loss in kids and teens often takes years to develop (or notice), and the results of noisy childhood environments can emerge later in life.
What’s more, hearing loss isn’t the only damage done by excessive noise. Even normal traffic noise around our homes raises the risk of developing diabetes, for example. The longer the exposure, the higher the risk. This is likely because noise interrupts the body’s natural mechanisms of accumulating fat in our cells. If the fatty acids are kept in the bloodstream, this interference may slow our sugar metabolism down.
All of these hearing loss risks, along with other noise-related health issues, are increasingly affecting young people at earlier ages. Apps aren’t the only reason. Urban and suburban growth means places kids live, learn, and play are getting louder.
Practical Steps for Kids’ Hearing Protection
- Check noise levels near your home. The Center for Disease Control offers a noise level app, which can help you check the sound levels where your kids live and play. It’s a good orientation tool, as it shows you how far environmental noises can travel, and the times and places your kids experience the most noise. Our research shows that some restaurants project music out to the street environments in strengths up to 84 decibels. A diesel truck moving at just 40 miles per hour, 50 feet from your home, also rises to 84 decibels.
- Test their hearing. If you’re concerned that your kids might have heard sounds at harmful levels, visit ProFind to set up an appointment with an audiologist who can give your child a hearing test. Should your child have significant hearing loss, there’s a range of helpful therapies available, and an expert can let you know what would work best in your child’s situation.
- Notice your kids’ play preferences, entertainment picks and everyday surroundings. Noise is harmful at 75 decibels. As the upper limit of safety is in the 55 to 70 decibel range, we urge parents to limit kid’s exposure to sound louder than 55 decibels and consider any noise at 70 decibels or higher a proven risk.
- Quiet appliances. If your kids use blow dryers, have them turn the speed down. If they’re into motor sports or recreation at indoor pools or loud sports arenas, equip them with kids’ hearing protection. You might be surprised at the level of sound at dance class, sports practice, pools and parks.
- Explain hearing loss to your kids. They are more likely to protect what they understand. Kids love learning something important. Most kids will seek more knowledge to share with their friends, family and teachers. Facts about noise are new and informative to most kids, but they shouldn’t be scary. The good news is that the risk is manageable—especially at home.Explain to your kids why it’s harmful to blast music through earbuds, earphones or speakers. Smart kids have always used headphones during drumming or music practice. Now we know how important this habit is.
- Give your kids hearing protection. When kids attend loud events or go to loud places (train stations, car races, air shows and similar environments), or when the landscapers are at work, prepare them — with a simple set of earplugs.
- Avoid smoking. Genes, health conditions such as diabetes and living with smokers can all raise a child’s risk of noise-related hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization. Prevention is the best way to avoid hearing loss, and minimizing exposure to avoidable health risks wherever we can is the key.
- Eat healthy foods. Fruits and vegetables with vitamins A, C, E and magnesium helps minimize noise-related hearing loss, according to a noise trauma study at the University of Michigan.
- Protect your windows. At home, soundproof your windows, so that your interior is peaceful and ear-friendly.
Hearing Safety Begins at Home, With Sun and Sound Window Inserts
Glass window inserts fit the bill if you need to reduce noise and want to insulate your home at the same time, saving on your electricity costs year round.
In Texas, Sun and Sound Windows proudly serves the Houston and Galveston areas, Austin, Dallas–Fort Worth, as well as metropolitan San Antonio. We’re now in the music city, Nashville, Tennessee, too!
We can soundproof rooms in your home, apartment or workspace. Have us install Sun and Sound Window inserts, and shield your interior space from up to 75 percent of low-pitched and up to 95 percent of high-pitched sounds.
Give us a call or email us, and find out how we can protect your family’s living space today.