5 Noise Sources that Could Damage your Child’s HearingBy Ian Allan
Babies and young children have thinner skulls and smaller ear canals so they are at greater risk of getting hearing damage from a loud sound than adults are. Some experts say that a child’s ears are likely to perceive sound up to 20% louder than an adult’s. Damage is caused by a combination of loudness and time of exposure. So, the louder the noise, the shorter the length of time your child should be exposed to it. Adults need to be aware that sounds that may seem just a little bit loud to us will be very loud to young children. One time when my daughter was 2 years old, she held her hands over her ears and cried at what I considered to be a low-volume music event.
Here’s a hearing safety table from Johns Hopkins Medicine (ranked #4 in the world).
|Level of safety||Decibels||Type of noise|
|Permanent hearing loss may happen||140-150||Fireworks within 1 metre, guns, jet engine|
|120-130||Jet plane, siren, jackhammer|
|110||Personal music player set at loudest level, chain saw, radio-controlled airplane|
|Gradual hearing loss may happen over time||90||Subway, motorcycle|
Four common sense ways to tell if a noise is too loud for your child
- Your child has to raise their voice to be heard
- Your child has difficulty understanding what someone an arm’s length away is saying
- Your child has pain or ringing in their ears
- Sounds seem muffled to them after they’ve been exposed to loud sounds
The sources for loud noises are not always ones you would think of
In one study, at a 30cm distance, one in four of the two hundred toys tested exceeded the maximum recommended noise level for infants (85dB). And 196 of the 200 exceeded 85dB at the speaker. Because most children hold toys close to their ear while playing with them, this is a problem you really need to be aware of. Here’s some things to think about with toys…
Problems with loud toys
- If a toy seems too loud when you’re looking at it in a noisy shop, it will be too loud in your much quieter home.
- If the sound of the toy hurts when you place it next to your ears, it will probably damage your child’s immature ears.
Solutions for loud toys
- If the toy is battery powered, then you should take the batteries out.
- If the toy has a volume control, then you should turn the volume down
- Place masking or electrical tape over the speaker. The more layers of tape, the lower the volume of the toy.
Choice Magazine’s reviews of hairdryers show that its common for hairdryers to operate at more than 90dB at 15 cm. This is the threshold at which hearing loss can occur in adults – let alone children.
Solutions for loud hairdryers
- Attach a diffuser to the end of the drier
- Hold the drier further away from your child’s head
- Use the drier in a big room or a room with lots of noise absorbing things in it. Children’s bedrooms can be a good place to dry hair if they have lots of soft toys, clothes and bedding lying about.
- Use the drier on a low setting
- Buy a low noise hairdryer.
In most movies the speaking parts are around 80dB. But, depending on the movie, noise peaks can exceed 140 dB (30m from a jet aircraft is 135dB). Some say that a trip to see most movies is unlikely to cause long term hearing loss, but be sure to exercise common sense and keep young ears away from loud cinemas.
Solutions for Cinemas
- Err on the side of caution and avoid the cinema until your children are older.
- Take your child to a specialist children’s cinema. Some Village cinemas have volume-reduced vjunior cinemas for example.
- Use earmuffs that meet international safety standards (link to myscallywag ems products)
Music Players, Smartphones and Tablets
Music Players, Smartphones and Tablets can be dangerous for children, especially when headphones are used…
Problems with Music Players, Smartphones and Tablets
- Children can fall asleep with the volume too high
- Earplug headsets can be a choking hazard
- The volume on headphones can be too high without you realizing it
- Friends can turn the volume up as a trick
- Headset chords are a choking hazard
- Earbuds close to your child’s eardrum and so are more likely to cause hearing damage than earphones (link to ems headphones)
Solutions for Music Players, Smartphones and Tablets
- Supervise your child when using a device and ensure it is not too loud
- Use a designed-for-children noise limited headset such as the EMS for kids headset. This has a max 85dB output even when the source volume is on maximum (Ian – link)
- Ensure headphones fit snugly so that ambient noise does not encourage your child to increase the volume.
Infants in high noise situations
There will always be times where infants need to be in high noise situations – when they just need to “fit in” with the rest of the family. This means tagging along to concerts, travelling on aircraft, be in noisy traffic environments, accompanying you to work, etc. Two ways to deal with this are earplugs and earmuffs
- Earplugs can be difficult to put in. Even with a co-operative child they can be hard to insert. My daughter would not entertain the idea. She would move her head from side to side so we couldn’t insert them.
- Earplugs are a choking hazard.
- Earmuffs can damage a baby’s soft skull if they’re not ones that are designed especially for baby’s soft skulls.
Benefits of earmuffs
- No choking hazard.
- Warm ears in winter.
- Infants are used to wearing hats and so are more likely to keep earmuffs on.
- Designed-for-infants earmuffs overcome the problems identified above. [Ian – link]
There are many different sources of loud noise that could potentially damage your child’s hearing. Many of these are only obvious when they are pointed out to you. Children’s toys are the ones that surprised me! The solutions can be simple when they’re pointed out – move away, turn the volume down, or wear hearing protection.