Protect Your Kids’ Ears From Unsafe Noise Levels

Make sure your kids aren’t exposed to unsafe noise levels, which may cause noise-induced hearing loss


 

May is National Speech and Hearing Awareness Month, and thousands of audiologists, speech, language and hearing therapists are advocating for auditory health. Experts stress the importance of parents watching for childhood hearing issues. Since hearing is vital to a child’s language and learning skills, parents have to make sure their development isn’t compromised. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is entirely preventable, so take the time to learn how to make your house a safe hearing zone. 

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss is a condition that can affect anyone at any age. It is caused by either immediate or prolonged exposure to noise above the safe level. To make sure your child is not affected by NIHL, regulate the noise levels of appliances, toys and electric devices inside the home.  

Beverley Wolfe, an audiologist at the Audiology Centre of Toronto, studies leisure noise. “Leisure noise is any noise exposure that you’re getting outside of the workplace. In the workplace there’s regulations that help protect workers from hearing loss. So if there’s ever noise above 85 decibels, that’s the volume where it can become dangerous.” By keeping your home noise level under 85 dB, you can avoid NIHL.

Safe Levels

85 decibels is the threshold between safe and unsafe noise. The following chart shows the level of leisure noises common to the home environment.

Whispering

25 dB

Clothes dryer

60 dB

Conversation

60 dB

Dishwasher

65 dB

Alarm clock

80 dB

Traffic

85 dB

Screaming child

90 dB

Lawnmower

105 dB

To make sure your child isn’t exposed to unsafe noise levels, regulate your household appliances and check out your children’s toys on toys.net.

The worst toys for children are rattles, squeaky toys, horns and toy guns, which can be well over 100 dB.    

Unsafe Levels

As children are exposed to unsafe levels their hearing deteriorates. Wolfe compares loud noises to the sun. “When kids are exposed to something quite loud it’s kind of like a burn, and sure your skin will heal and get better, but over time that damage is cumulative. You’re going to get skin that’s sun damaged or ears that are noise damaged.”

Since auditory damage accumulates, it’s important to start protecting kids early. Make sure there isn’t any noise source near a baby’s ears. If your house is too loud, for example when you have the dishwasher and vacuum running at the same time, children tend to turn their devices up. Try to keep a door closed between the source of the noise and your children to keep levels down.

When kids start using personal listening devices, it becomes harder to regulate their exposure to noise. Set maximums of 85 dB on iPods and MP3s so they can’t exceed safe volumes. Wolfe explains, “If your children can’t hear you talking in a regular voice about a meter away, then it’s too loud.” At 85 dB, you should be able to hear a normal conversation over iPod ear buds.

Safe Sounds For Babies

There’s been a lot of debate surrounding noise machines, and whether they can cause lasting damage to a baby’s hearing. All noise machines should be well under 85 dB. Check the packaging to make sure and place the machine away from the crib.

You can play music to your child in utero. Once again, just make sure the volume is less than 85 dB. If you want to put headphones directly on your stomach to allow vibrations through the amniotic fluid, test the device yourself before. If you have them on and can still hear a conversation from a meter away, it is safe to use.

Keeping a quiet home

Be careful when buying appliances since they’ll be running as background noise. Check the ratings on the appliance to make sure they are under 85 dB. That way, if your child turns up the volume on their personal device to cover the noise, it won’t be able to reach unsafe levels. Try to buy appliances known for being as quiet as possible:

Close windows to ensure no outside noises, like lawn mowers, power tools, sirens and chainsaws can be heard. For dampening indoor noises use rugs, soft cushions and wall coverings. Above all, be aware of where your children are to create the safest and most peaceful environment possible.  

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