What can Parents do to Protect Their Children’s Hearing Health When Frequently Using Headphones?
When it comes to hearing health, the volume isn’t the only factor to take into consideration. The length of time spent listening to audio should also be of concern.
Kids are constantly wearing their headphones these days. It’s become more prevalent since everyone has been home in quarantine.
Due to families being together more often under one roof, everyone still needs their own space. Many will resort to listening to music or podcasts with headphones, or earbuds. Listening at a loud volume, for too long, can deteriorate your ability to hear.
Use appropriate safety measures to avoid hearing loss, challenges with communication, tinnitus, feelings of fullness in the ear, sensitivity to sound and physical pain.
Unfortunately, hearing protection has not been more widely taught to people. You can learn from the lifestyles of older generations who now experience hearing loss.
Many people are more concerned about their children’s screen time, appropriate social media usage, and video games. Your doctor may be more concerned about smokers in your home, the amount of TV that is watched, their diet and exercise routines. They never show concern for volume levels of their audio or how often kids use headphones. Hearing tests are generally not conducted when you go to a doctor’s visit unless you specifically ask for one.
If your kids wear headphones while playing video games or listening to music, and they can’t hear anything that you say, that means the volume is too loud.
How safe are headphones designed for children?
Headphones for children are generally not safe for children to use. The highest volume that they can reach up to is 85 decibels (dB).
The dangerous exposure levels do not simply depend on the intensity, but also the duration and frequency. Time and volume levels are both important to take into account. The 85 dB is used as one of the few ways to regulate noise.
Some headphones that are marketed for children - the devices that have volume limits and promote their safety - highlight the comfort of the ear pads and lengthy battery life, so that they can wear them all day long. So while it’s supposedly safe to turn the volume up, it is the consistent amount of time exposed to the significantly lower volume that damages your hearing health.
Safe measurements to listening
The amount of safe listening is different for each person. On average, the safe limit for the majority of headphone users for an unlimited amount of listening time is 70 dB. Brian Fligor, Ph.D., a pediatric audiologist in Boston and Rick Neitzel, Ph.D., an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan. Both Dr. Fligor and Dr. Neitzel consulted the World Health Organization’s Make Listening Safe program, which increases awareness of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
If you are exposed to noise for eight hours per day, a generous limit would be 83 dB, but 75 dB is more reasonable. Dr. Fligor suggests that a strict maximum recommendation may turn people off from well-meaning advice.
Sound waves are not steady. They ebb and flow with various frequencies, harmonics and reverberations.
Noise exposure is cumulative. If a child loves to use their headphones and also plays an instrument, mows the lawn or strikes on pots and pans, their dosage of noise goes up. You can make your child wear protective earmuffs or even earplugs for older children. Earplugs for younger children could be a choking hazard.
It is impossible to predict whose ears can withstand the noise and whose ears cannot. According to Bryan Pollard, the president of Hyperacusis Research, which funds research on noise-induced pain, the same amount of noise may have no impact on some people and cause severe hearing damage to others.
Damage caused by consistent low-level noise, just like gradual hearing loss caused by natural aging (presbycusis) can come about without warning. Each person has to decide for themselves how much of their hearing that they are willing to risk.
How can you determine if you are destroying your ears?
Unfortunately, it’s typically difficult to know until it is much too late.
Shifts in your ability to hear can happen slowly, and you aren’t going to know which noise that you become exposed to winds up permanently damaging hearing health.
Hearing loss does not simply mean that sounds get quieter. Communicating becomes more challenging. Sounds can be heard but may become distorted. Speech noises can be unclear or muffled; music may sound dull for harsh. Conversations with others can turn into a frustrating and stressful endeavor.
Tinnitus, a perceived beeping, buzzing, or ringing noise, affects 10 to 20 percent of the population. It normally takes less noise exposure to induce tinnitus than hearing loss. Tinnitus is more difficult to manage than hearing loss. It’s usually accompanied by feelings of pressure or a blockage in the ear, known as aural fullness.
A symptom of hearing loss that’s even worse than tinnitus is hyperacusis. This is when sounds become so sensitive to you, that surrounding noises seem unbearable. It can become so progressive that the simple clinking noise of your dishes during a meal can induce a lingering pain in your ears.
Parenting advice on making listening safer for children
Make sure you cannot hear sounds seeping through your children’s headphones. If you can, that means it’s too loud. Also, occasionally check the volume levels or utilize a lock to control them. Your child should be able to hear from you whenever you speak to them. Make sure that they take intervals between listening.
You can use noise-canceling headphones. They get rid of background noises, for example, while sitting through a car ride. Your child will be able to hear without the need to increase the volume level. These headphones are not to be mistaken for volume-limiting headphones or earmuffs that block out noise. Those are different accessories that are used in different situations.
At least every three years, children should get a hearing test. Standard audiograms and a speech-in-noise test can identify prospective issues. Also, if you notice that your child is responding with, “What?” too frequently, then it’s probably time to get them tested for their hearing.
Any signs of ear symptoms, even if they are temporary, are not to be taken lightly. If your child experiences tinnitus (beeping, buzzing, ringing noise with no outside source), hearing muffled sounds, feelings of fullness in the ear, fluttering, sensitivity to sounds, hearing sounds that are distorted, or pain these are all warnings of impending hearing loss. Get help immediately. Hearing loss can quickly happen, and it’s best to get treatment as soon as possible to avoid or slow down any further loss.
If you, or a loved one, are in need of a complimentary hearing test and consultation, contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids.
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