Common activities that could cause hearing loss in children

What parents need to know about noise-induced hearing loss and what can cause it.

Loud noises aren’t just a problem for adults. Children are particularly sensitive to loud noises. And some common activities for kids could lead to permanent damage to the hearing organ.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 5.2 million children ages 6 to 19 years old have experienced permanent hearing damage caused by loud noise.

Consequences of noise-induced hearing loss

Noise-induced hearing loss can cause multiple problems for children. It can lead to problems in speech development and performance in school. It can also cause tinnitus (link to ADC article), and distorted or muffled hearing that could prevent children from hearing important sounds.

Depending on the activity, noise-induced hearing loss can happen after just one exposure to the loud noise — such as gunfire at a shooting range — or after multiple exposures — such as listening to loud music.

Signs of hearing loss

  • Muffled hearing after exposure to loud sounds
  • Difficulty hearing environmental sounds – including birds singing, alarm clocks, telephones
  • Trouble understanding speech in group settings or telephone conversations
  • Pain or ringing in the ear after being exposed to loud sounds.

Here are three activities kids participate in that could lead to noise-induced hearing loss and what can be done to prevent it.

Activities that could put hearing at risk

School activities

Playing in a marching band or participating in shop class without proper hearing protection could damage a young person’s hearing over time.

Loud instruments or machinery can expose children and adolescents to sounds levels over 90 decibels, which can damage hearing if the exposure is repeated or prolonged.

Activities outside of school

Playing with firecrackers or visiting a gun range can also expose young people to hazardous sound levels. The sound of firecrackers and gunfire is so loud, it could result in immediate hearing damage if the ears do not have proper protection.

Listening to music

Austin loves its designation as the Live Music Capital of the World, but going to loud music concerts could be a problem for young people. It’s important to wear properly fitted hearing protection at concerts, because repeated exposure could result in a lifetime of hearing damage.

Even personal music devices, like iPods could be a problem if the volume is high. Young people should be instructed to turn the volume down.

How to prevent noise-induced hearing loss

Walk away from the source

The simplest way to avoid hearing damage is to walk away from a loud noise if possible. Make sure you are not standing directly in front of concert speakers or step away from a particularly loud instrument or machine.

Turn it down or limit exposure

If you can, try to avoid being exposed to loud sounds, such as lawnmowers, gunfire or power tools. If you can’t avoid them, reduce the noises to a safe level by using properly fitted ear protection.

Protect your ears

Musician-filter ear plugs are an option for young musicians. The ear plugs are designed to reduce the volume equally across the frequencies to enable the wearer to hear the wearer to hear the full range of sound but at a reduced level to protect hearing. The music will be softer but without the distortion of regular earplugs.

But be wary of ear plugs purchased at convenience stores. If they are not inserted correctly, they may provide little protection to the ears. It’s best to visit an audiologist who can recommend the best ear plugs for you and instruct you in the proper insertion of the earplugs.