Kids are increasingly becoming more at risk of developing hearing loss due to loud noise exposure. With various electronic devices like phones and tablets now being essential items in daily life as well as listening to audio via headphones, kids are constantly exposed to varying noise levels. The World Health Organization estimates that over 1 billion children and young adults (ages 12-35) are at high risk of developing hearing loss as a direct result of recreational exposure to loud noise. Learning more about this risk and safety measures you can implement, can prevent noise induced hearing loss.
How Loud is Too Loud?
Sound is measured in units referred to as decibels (dB) and noise above 85dB can be hazardous for hearing health. For perspective, this is equivalent to busy traffic and a hair dryer, which does not seem very loud right? According to experts, people can be exposed to 85dB for 8 hours a day and this is the maximum for safe listening. For sound that exceeds 85dB, exposure time needs to be significantly reduced. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s guidelines for safe listening recommends that exposure time be reduced by half for every 3 decibel increase of noise above 85dB:
- 85dB: 8 hours
- 88dB: 4 hours
- 91dB: 2 hours
- 94dB: 1 hour
- 97dB: 30min
Did you know that the maximum volume on the iPhone is 102dB? This is just as loud as a leaf blower or even a construction site. Listening to audio at this level for more than 7 minutes can permanently damage hearing and cause noise induced hearing loss.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
One time or regular exposure to loud noise (above 85dB) can damage the sensory cells in the inner ear. There are thousands of sensory cells in the cochlea which play an integral role in how sound is processed. These hair-like cells convert incoming sound waves into electrical signals which get sent to the brain. The brain is then able to further process these signals which includes assigning meaning to them. This process is what allows us to understand what we hear.
Loud noise can desensitize these sensory cells which weakens them, reducing their capacity to perform their essential task. This results in the brain receiving less auditory information, causing hearing loss. Unlike other types of cells we have, sensory cells in the inner ear do not regenerate. There are also no medical interventions or treatments that can repair these cells which means that any damage they experience is permanent.
Tips to Protect Hearing
Fortuenaly, noise induced hearing loss is completely preventable. There are safety measures you can practice to protect your hearing. A few strategies include:
- Wear hearing protection: there are different types of hearing protection like headphones, earbuds, and earmuffs. These options provide a physical barrier for the ears, reducing the amount and impact of loud noise that you absorb.
- Invest in noise canceling headphones: noise canceling technology is designed to reduce background noise. This prevents needing to increase the volume while moving through environments that are noisier, allowing people to listen safely. This is especially useful if your kid(s) use headphones regularly.
- Measure volume: knowing how loud the sound(s) around you (or that you are listening to) is, helps you adjust your exposure time. You can download an app to measure sound in decibels, apps like NIOSH Sound Level Meter App (iOS) and SoundPrint (iOS and Android) are useful ways to do this.
- Use 60/60 rule: hearing healthcare experts often recommend the 60/60 rule: listening to audio at a maximum of 60% of the volume for no more than 60 minutes. This is an easy rule of thumb to remember and follow.
- Take breaks: it is important to take breaks throughout the day. This gives the ears and brain time to rest and recuperate from constantly absorbing and processing sound.
- Test hearing: another useful strategy is having hearing evaluated regularly. Hearing tests involve a painless and noninvasive process that measures hearing capacities in both ears. This identifies hearing needs and informs solutions that can support hearing health.
Contact us to learn about the technologies and resources that are available to you to help protect hearing health.