Mom’s Talk: How to Protect Your Baby’s Hearing

While hearing loss is not terribly common in younger people, it’s also not very uncommon. According to a 2009 Hearing Screening and Follow-up Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 1.4 babies per 1000 have hearing loss. Older survey from the same organization that ran from 1997-2005 found that 5 per 1000 children, between the ages 3 and 17, have hearing problem. In addition, a 2010 survey from the CDC found that at least 16 percent of teens, with the age of 12-19, have reported some percentage of hearing damage due to loud noise.

baby earphone

There are many possible causes for hearing loss in children, but the most common is too much exposure to loud noise. Noise is one of the greatest threats to children’s hearing. Every day, we hear different kinds of sounds, such as the sounds from our radios, televisions, cars, home appliances, and even from people. Well typically, we hear these sounds at normal levels, which do not affect or damage our ears. However, if we are exposed to loud noises over a long period of time, we damage them, resulting to hearing problems, such as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). According to Brain Fligor, director of diagnostic audiology at Children’s Hospital Boston, hearing loss that is acquired from loud noises is cumulative and permanent; if such exposure starts in infancy, your child can live half of his life with hearing problem.

A sound’s loudness is measured in decibels (dB). In most countries, the permissible exposure limit for noise is 85 dB for a full eight-hour shift, but it is 90 dB in other countries. Generally, sounds above 85 dB are unsafe, especially if you expose yourself for too long. The noise in a rock concert and football stadium can reach up to 100-130 decibels. And according to Levi Reiter, head of the audiology program at Hofstra University, any noise that is potentially dangerous to adult people is more dangerous to a child. Since a child’s ear canal is much smaller than that of an adult’s, the sound pressure that enters the ears is greater, making children more sensitive to loud noises and at risk to hearing problems.

What to do?

Hearing loss, even mild condition, must be diagnosed as soon as possible, so that your child will not experience difficulty in learning proper language. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all newborns to be screened before they are discharged from the healthcare facility. And anytime during your child’s life, if you suspect that your child has a hearing problem, speak to your child’s doctor (preferably audiologist) immediately and have your child’s hearing tested promptly.

In addition, make sure that your child is always wearing a baby ear protection, such as ear muffs or ear plugs, to eliminate unwanted noise. This is particularly essential if you love taking your baby to sporting events, like basketball and football games. Since the sounds in these kinds of events are too loud, your baby’s sensitive ear will not be able to withstand them, which may cause hearing problem. So next time you take your child to any events, such as sporting events, fireworks displays, and parades, make sure that he or she wears a protective gear.

Most importantly, be your child’s role model. Taking care of your child’s hearing is as important as showing that you value your own hearing. Just like your child, you should also use ear protection when attending noisy events and working with loud machines, and as much as possible only listen to music at lower volumes.

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