Kids Are Blowing Out Their Hearing — Safety Tips for Parents
With summer break coming up for children, parents should be mindful of seasonal hazards that could put children at risk for noise-induced hearing loss.
Deborah Berndtson, associate director for audiology practices at The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, said those seasonal hazards include people listening to personal devices for too long at too-loud volumes, as well as attending noisy public events such as concerts, sporting events and fireworks shows.
She said according to The World Health Organization, about 1.1 billion young people, ages 12 to 25 worldwide are at risk of hearing loss due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds.
For adults, the WHO standard recommends no more than 40 hours of listening weekly on a device at levels no higher than 80 decibels; for children, it specifies no more than 40 hours weekly at 75 decibels.
She said there are ways for parents to protect their kids' hearing. The first way is to educate children about the hazards of noise-induced hearing loss.
"Noise-induced hearing loss is what happens when you listen to these devices too long or at too loud a volume or perhaps attend many concerts or places where there's loud sounds," added Berndtson.
The National Institute of Health has a webpage called Noisy Planet with information about noise-induced hearing loss. The National Institutes on Noise Safety and Health has a sound level meter device that can be downloaded on a phone to monitor devices.
Anyone with concerns about their hearing should seek an evaluation from a certified audiologist.
Besides educating children, Berndtson said parents and caregivers should closely monitor kids' use of listening devices, have them take hourly listening breaks and provide ample device-free time for summer activities. Set volume limiters if they are available to keep the volume level on devices at no higher than halfway.
When families attend a loud venue, she said the ASHA strongly recommends that both adults and children wear earplugs. Parents are encouraged to model safe listening for their children and their teens.
Young children should wear earmuffs when attending concerts, festivals, sporting events and fireworks. They should be at least 50 feet away from the speakers. She also suggested parents have the kids take periodic breaks from the noise and leave if anyone is experiencing pain or ringing in the ears.
"The rule of thumb I like to use on the personal listening device is if I can hear the music coming from your device, it's too loud," said Berndtson.