Bells may be ringing, but your kids' ears shouldn't be!
Hearing loss that results from exposure to loud noise, called
noise-induced hearing loss, is of particular concern for today's children. One of the main reasons is the widespread use of personal audio technology and other smart devices.
World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults worldwide are at risk for hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise—and they point to noisy technology as a primary source.
When not used safely, ear buds or
headphones, present a significant danger to a child's hearing. Of course, these devices and accessories also happen to top many holiday wish lists. Beyond tech gifts, other holiday hearing hazards include noisy toys for the youngest of children and noisy gatherings such as parties and concerts.
Smart devices, state-of-the-art headphones, and other tech gifts are among the most coveted items for kids of almost all ages. The products aren't bad, but it's critical to use them safely:
Teach safe listening. Help kids protect their ears by teaching them to turn the volume down (keep it to half level) and take listening breaks (ears benefit greatly from the rest).
Model good listening habits. As a parent, it is critical that you
practice what you preach when it comes to safe listening. Little ears are listening.
Choose wisely. Certain features or products may help with volume control. Noise-cancelling headphones are often a good idea, as kids won't need to turn the volume up to drown out outside noise. Look for ear buds or headphones that fit the child well, which will prevent sound leakage and again reduce the need to turn the volume up to hear. Need a practical tip? If a you are an arm's length away, your child wearing headphones should still be able to hear you when asked a question.
Toys designed for infants and toddlers may be noisy enough to cause hearing damage—especially since young children hold objects close to their face/ears.
- Check your list. Before heading to the toy store or shopping online, check the annual
Sight & Hearing Association's Noisy Toys study to see if any of the products listed there are on your child's wish list.
Listen up before purchasing. Pay attention to how loud a toy sounds, and consider a different option, if necessary.
Make a minor do-it-yourself modification. An easy way to reduce the noise is to put a piece of tape over the speaker. Alternatively, you can remove the batteries. Instantly, you've made the toy a much safer product.
Holiday parties and concerts, sporting events, and other gatherings are part of the season. Make sure to be mindful of the noise level.
Use hearing protection. Bring earplugs or ear muffs with you when there is potential for loud noise. This is a cheap, easy, and effective way to preserve kids' (and adults') hearing.
Keep a distance from noise sources. Don't let kids stand near speakers or other noise emitters.
Leave if noise is enough to cause discomfort. Ringing and pain are signs that ears need a break. If your child is complaining, covering his or her ears, or seems uncomfortable, consider an early exit.
Concerned About Your Child's Hearing?
Even minor hearing loss can significantly impact a child's development, academic success, and social interactions, among other things. It's important that you act early if you have concern.