Though many people associate hearing loss with advanced age, anyone of any age can experience this condition. As a matter of fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “An estimated 12.5% of children and adolescents aged 6–19 years (approximately 5.2 million) have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise.”
For many children, the source of this noise exposure is from their technology. More specifically, it is how they listen to their technology—through headphones and earbuds. In this post, we review information about noise-induced hearing loss and how to protect your child’s ears.
How Do Loud Sounds Cause Damage?
Within the inner ear is the cochlea, which is filled with fluid and lined with sensory hair cells called stereocilia. As sounds travel through the ears, they move the fluid, which stimulates the stereocilia; this process converts the sound impulses into electrical energy. The electrical energy travels via the auditory nerve to the brain to be interpreted as sound.
If dangerously loud sounds pass through the ears, they can damage or destroy the stereocilia. Once damaged, the sensory cells do not regenerate, and the result is permanent sensorineural hearing loss.
How Loud Is Too Loud?
This is a somewhat complicated question, as how long your child listens is just as important as how loud their media is.
OSHA reports that the threshold that is considered safe is 85 dB. This is about the volume of passing highway traffic or a bustling café. At this volume, sounds are safe for up until about eight hours of exposure.
But if your child is listening for longer than eight hours, 85 dB is too loud. For all-day listening, the volume should be limited to less than 70 dB. This is about the volume of a washing machine or dishwasher.
How Can I Keep My Child’s Ears Safe?
Keep your child’s ears safe by:
- Limiting their exposure. Follow the 60/60 rule by having them listen for no longer than 60 minutes at no more than 60% of the device’s maximum volume.
- Investing in volume-limiting headphones, which ensure your child can’t turn up the volume louder than is safe.
- Getting noise-canceling headphones. These block out background noise so your child can hear their music clearly without having to crank up the volume.
- Setting volume controls on their smartphones and tablets. This way, you can keep their ears safe without having to buy them new headphones or earbuds.
- Encouraging them to wear protective earplugs while attending concerts at Pine Box Studios on East Seventh Street.
To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, call Wilmington Audiology Services today.