Technology and Hearing Loss: Protect Your Child’s Hearing with Healthy Listening Habits
As smartphones and tablets become more portable, capable and affordable, media is at our fingertips wherever we are. As satisfying as it is to turn up our favorite songs on the go, we put ourselves at risk for hearing damage every time we crank up the volume. Powerful, immersive headphones can expose us to levels of noise as dangerous and hearing loss-inducing as the large sound systems at football games and rock concerts.
In the not-so-distant past, we described the muffled hearing and ringing ears experienced after a loud concert as “temporary” hearing loss. Today, a number of studies have proven that the damage we cause our hearing after listening to loud sounds is anything but temporary. Even if we feel our hearing return to “normal” after a few days or don’t think our hearing has changed, the damage done by listening to loud sounds has long-lasting consequences that can result in poorer hearing and understanding of speech as we get older.
Educating our children on good hearing practices at a young age will help them keep their hearing in tip-top shape and allow them to hear all their favorite sounds, voices and music clearly well into adulthood.
Here are some healthy listening tips to help your child avoid hearing damage:
- Determine if your child’s music is too loud by using the “arm length” test: if you are standing an arm’s length away from your child and they cannot understand what you are saying to them at a regular speaking volume with the headphones on, the music is too loud and could be causing damage. Even volume-limiting headphones designed for children can still expose your child to damaging volumes.
- Limit the amount of time your child spends listening with headphones. Even listening to moderately loud music for a long period of time can cause gradual hearing loss.
- If possible, do not let your child listen to music in noisy areas. The noisier the surrounding area is, the more likely your child will turn the volume up to damage-causing levels to hear their music. Invest in noise-reducing or noise-cancelling headphones to decrease the likelihood of your child turning up the volume to overcome noise.
- If you are going to a loud event like a concert or sports game, be sure to bring hearing protection for you and your child to avoid exposure to excessive noise. Child-sized earmuffs and earplugs are appropriate forms of hearing protection. If you use foam earplugs, be sure to pull the ear up and back slightly to make sure the plug goes into the ear deep enough to protect your child’s hearing. You might also consider moving away from the sound source to help reduce the volume you are being exposed to.
We recommend you have your child’s hearing tested if you notice any of the following:
- They frequently need you to repeat what you’ve said
- They need to be looking at you or facing toward you in order to understand what is being said
- They appear to need their devices turned up louder than you think might be appropriate in order to hear
- They complain of ringing or buzzing sounds in their ears
Do you have concerns about your child’s hearing? Talk to your pediatrician about a referral to Children’s Mercy Hearing and Speech. To learn more visit: bit.ly/CMHearingandSpeech.