Injury Prevention

Help Children Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Nancy S. Bruno, AuD, FAAA, ABA-Cert., CCC-A/SLP, is the clinical manager of Connecticut Children’s Department of Audiology. With October being National Protect Your Hearing Month, she joins our blog to discuss important strategies providers, parents and others can use to help children prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

Advancing Kids: How common is hearing loss in children?

Nancy Bruno: Hearing loss can develop at any age so is becomes more common as children age.

At birth, about two to three out of every 1,000 children in the United States have a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. These data include the results of diagnostic hearing evaluations, with the level of loss defined as 25 decibels or greater. The number of children with hearing loss doubles by entry into Kindergarten and continues to increase throughout school age and beyond.

An estimated 13 to 18 percent of children and teens reported noise exposure and showed a “noise notch” on a hearing test, according to a 2017 study published in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. Hearing loss has many causes: genetics and family history; ear infections, trauma or disease; certain medications; and exposure to excessively loud noise. Many times, we are unable to identify the cause. In cases of hearing loss caused by noise, we often find a clue to its cause in a hearing test, which shows a notch or dip in a person’s ability to hear certain frequencies. The notch or dip is very specific to hearing loss caused by noise and is often referred to as a “noise notch”.

Advancing Kids: How loud is too loud?

Hearing Loss Noisy PlanetNancy Bruno: If you have to shout for someone to hear you from three feet away, the noise is too loud! The level of the sound and the time spent listening to the sound both influence a person’s chances of developing hearing loss. Sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound the shorter the length of time you can listen to it without worry of losing hearing.

As part of the It’s a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing campaign, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a bookmark (shown on right) to raise awareness about noise-induced hearing loss among parents of children ages 8 – 12.

Advancing Kids: What does Connecticut Children’s do to raise awareness about noise-induced hearing loss?

Hearing Loss HandoutNancy Bruno: Our audiology department provides handouts (shown on left) from the American Academy of Audiology on noise and hearing loss in our waiting rooms.

In addition, Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center holds a Safe Kids Day every year. Our audiology department participates in that event to educate elementary school children about noise-induced hearing loss. We provide material from the It’s a Noisy Planet campaign, like the bookmark above, and present interactive demonstrations to illustrate how noise damages hearing. We also bring our hearing model DeciBel and our stop light noise tracker to let children measure how loud different sounds are.

We also pass out disposable earplugs and encourage people to use them in noisy places. We can make custom musician’s earplugs for band members of all ages.

Advancing Kids: What precautions can parents and caregivers encourage children to take, and even take themselves, to prevent noise-induced hearing loss?

Nancy Bruno: There are three important steps in avoiding noise-induced hearing loss:

  1. Lower the volume.
  2. If you can’t lower the volume, move away from the noise or wear earplugs or earmuffs.
  3. If you can’t do either of those, limit the time you spend in noise. 

Advancing Kids: What role can/should providers, such as physicians and audiologists, play in helping patients prevent noise-induced hearing loss?

Nancy Bruno: They should always remember to educate people that noise can cause permanent hearing loss. Since damage is gradual, providers should screen for hearing loss and look for a “noise notch” as an early sign to take action to limit further damage.

Advancing Kids: What role can/should parents and caregivers play in helping children prevent noise-induced hearing loss?

Nancy Bruno: Know what common toys and activities may be loud enough to cause hearing loss.

Each year the Sight and Hearing Association tests the sound levels of toys and publishes a Noisy Toys List before the holiday season to help parents and caregivers be informed shoppers. You can find this list and lists from prior years any time of year. The Noisy Toys List also has suggestions for what to do if your child receives a noisy toy. Take out the batteries, put clear tape over the speaker, and more.

Did you know that band instruments are loud enough to cause hearing loss? A flute or saxophone can be 110 -115 decibels! Read more here.

Consider supporting programs like ADOPT-A-BAND that promote awareness and prevention of hearing loss from exposure to loud music.

Did you know that many musicians wear earplugs and some musicians, such as the band Pearl Jam, are now handing out earplugs at their concerts? Learn more about musicians and hearing loss here.

Encourage curiosity and STEM education. Many high school students participate in science fairs. Recent science fair projects include a study on whether hair driers are loud enough to cause hearing loss. The answer is yes!

The It’s A Noisy Planet campaign also has many resources for parents. Read more here.

To sign up to receive E-Updates from Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health, click here.

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