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Children and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

by Alexandra Kilpatrick

ParentMap’s Hilary Benson recently discussed the effects of noise-induced hearing loss in children with Seattle’s King5.com.

According to Benson, loud sporting events, like Husky and Seahawks games, produce a risk of hearing damage to children.

“There can be a risk of permanent damage to kids’ hearing anytime the decibel readings are high, and not even 136 decibels level high,” Benson told King5.com. “A decibel level around 110 can cause permanent damage to hearing. When the teeny hair cells in the ear are damaged, they don’t regenerate.”

Causes of Hearing Loss

However, multiple factors beyond high decibel levels contribute to hearing loss in children.

“One factor is proximity to sound,” Benson informed King5.com. “If you are right in front of a speaker or noise source, the risk is greater. Another is simply genetics, as some individuals will be more at risk than others. The most important thing to consider, however, is the amount of time someone is exposed to loud noise. When a game or event lasts several hours, the risk of hearing damage is greater, even if the noise isn’t close to record-breaking territory. The National Institute of Health recommends no more than 15 minutes of exposure to noise in the 100 decibel range.”

Exposure to Listening Devices

Benson urges parents to warn their children and adolescents about repeated exposure to earbuds and MP3 players, since studies estimate one in five teenagers suffer from permanent hearing loss, mostly from listening to these devices.

“Depending on the device and the quality of the earbuds and headphones, MP3 players can produce noise in the 105 decibel range,” Benson claimed to King5.com. “With new technology, it’s possible to listen to those loud levels for several hours on end. A 2010 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that that listening to loud music through ear buds is probably the main reason more adolescents are losing some of their hearing.”

Minimizing the Risk of Hearing Loss

Benson recommends using reduced sensitivity ear buds to minimize the risk of hearing loss, as they limit the noise to a safe level for up to four hours of listening.

“If you want to just block noise, there are variations on the foam earplugs, plus ones that are form fitting,” Benson told King5.com. “This is good for a kid in a band or orchestra. For little kids, earmuffs for loud events are good. They knock sound down 30 decibels.”

Rules of Thumb for Turning it Down

The University of Washington’s Bloedel Hearing Center advises parents to make sure their children turn it down at various times, specifically when the noise hurts their ears, if you need to raise your voice to be heard, if you can hear music from their ear buds or if they develop a buzzing or ringing sound in their ears.

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