One of the less considered forms of pollution in modern society is noise pollution. We’re surrounded by noise all the time, from road and air traffic, to amplified music from portable devices and live entertainment.
This relentless barrage presents real health risks to children. Prolonged exposure to excessive noise can gradually cause conditions such as tinnitus (ringing or hissing in the ears), or even permanent hearing loss. Noise Induced Hearing Loss is the second most common form of hearing loss, after age-related types.
Listening to any sound at a high volume—more than 85 decibels—for more than five hours a week can damage hearing permanently, and it’s thought that inner ear damage from noise exposure can leave your ears more prone to the aging process later in life. There is no cure for noise-induced hearing loss, as damaged hair cells in the ear cannot regenerate.
We can protect kids from Noise Induced Hearing Loss by active or passive means. Headphones for MP3 players, games consoles or smartphones should be volume-limited, typically to 85dB. Look for durable, flexible, comfortably cushioned designs, and consider wireless designs that eliminate the need for fiddly and dangerous cables.
Outdoors, noise reduction earplugs with special audibility filters can be an option, and as these can also be water-resistant so are good for water sport events. Soft silicon earplugs, which just cover the ear entrance can also be effective, but can be tricky to fit.
But as children grow so quickly, in many cases the most practical ear protection is the hearing defender. Hearing defenders, or ‘ear muffs’ for children are commonly available in age ranges from 0-2, and from 2-5.
Design features usually include comfortable padding, hard-wearing cups, and a folding hinge to make the defenders easier to store and transport. Designs for younger children are often in single bright colours, while those for older kids feature funkier patterns, sturdier construction, larger earcups and higher noise tolerance levels.
Choose hearing protection tailored to be comfortable, effective and practical for kids, and you’ll be looking after their hearing without having to make a noise about it.
This feature was originally published in the summer edition of Healthy Child with Dr Ranj Singh, which you can also read here!