Believe it or not, by the time our children get to their teens, up to 1 out of 5 will have slight hearing loss (newborns have a rate of 1 in 1000). In surveys done several times over the last 3 decades, the rates of hearing loss in teens have risen from 15 to 20% since 1988. That translates into 6.5 million teens with varying levels of loss – some of which can affect hearing in school, in the workplace, and compromise safety when hearing is important.
Sudden loud, intense noises, or high noise levels over time cause permanent damage to the delicate hair cells in the cochlea, the structure in our middle ear that sends sound messages to the brain. The hair cells on the outer cochlea get damaged first, and if sound damage continues the inner hair cells, and even our hearing nerve (the auditory nerve) can sustain damage. That translates into hearing loss that makes it difficult at first to hear soft sounds, may cause tinnitus (ringing in the ear), and ultimately all ranges of sound if damage is severe.
Here are some SAFE examples of noise:
Whisper: 30 dB Quiet room: 50dB Dishwasher/normal conversation: 60dB Vacuum cleaner, inside a car, noisy restaurant: 70dB Busy street, alarm clock, blow dryer, garbage disposal: 80dB Electric razor: 85dB
Unsafe Examples: PROLONGED EXPOSURE (MORE THAN 8 HOURS) ABOVE 85 DB WILL CAUSE GRADUAL HEARING LOSS
Motorcycle at 25 feet: 88dB Blender, lawnmower, power drill, roar of crowd in a stadium: 90dB
MORE THAN 15 MINUTES OF EXPOSURE ABOVE 100dB MAY CAUSE HEARING LOSS
Chainsaw, snowmobile, garbage truck: 100dB
Children’s toys: 86-111dB
JUST 2 MINUTES AT 109dB OR ABOVE CAN CAUSE PERMANENT HEARING LOSS
Symphony, stereo headset, club/live band, screeching subway train: 110dB
PHYSICAL PAIN BEGINS AND HEARING LOSS CAN BE PERMANENT - more than one minute of exposure can cause loss
Rock concert/thunderclap: 120dB
Handgun, formula 1 racecar: 130dB
IMMEDIATE NERVE DAMAGE OCCURS
Low flying aircraft, toy cap gun, firecracker, jet engine: 140dB
Rock concert (peak): 150 dB Shotgun, IED, grenade: 170dB Rocket launch: 180
What to check for to see if a sound is safe:
• If purchasing a toy for your child, hold it next to your ear (like kids do) and if sounds too loud, don’t buy it. • If you have ringing, buzzing, hissing or roaring in your ears after exposure the sound is too loud. • If your hearing feels muffled. • If there is pus or fluid leaking from your ear. • If you find you have to "turn up the volume" with music or TV higher than the past. • If you have difficulty distinguishing words that people are saying. • If you have pain in your ears, headache, or even nausea with loud noise, it’s too loud. • If you have to SHOUT above the noise level, it’s too loud.
How to PREVENT hearing loss in our children and in ourselves:
• When purchasing toys for your child, push buttons, rattle them, and hold them up to your ear. If they are loud, don’t buy them. • If your child already has loud toys, cover the speaker with duct tape or remove the batteries or discard the toy. • If buying headphones for MP3 players, iPads, computers or gaming, purchase "VOLUME-LIMITING" headphones – there are settings that won’t let sound exceed 85 dB for safe listening. This is especially critical for young children. • Place a time limit (an hour or less) on headphone use and enforce it! • Headphones are preferable over ear buds (as the buds are that much closer to the middle ear and "concentrate" the noise. • Go into the settings of your child’s mp3 player and set the sound at 60%, then password protect with your password so your child can’t change them. • If going to loud venues (concerts, races, etc), take ear protection for ALL family members. • There are affordable options, from silicone or foam moldable earplugs, to earmuffs, sound dampening plugs, etc. COTTON BALLS DO NOT WORK. • If going to an exceedingly loud venue (air show, fireworks exhibit, nascar, enclosed concert, rocket launch, or firing range) wearing both plugs and ear muffs is desirable. • Don’t "double up" sound – ie rocking out with your ipod while mowing the lawn. • If you are pregnant, DON’T SMOKE. Prenatal smoke exposure increases the risk for children to have hearing loss early in life and even into adolescence. The more a mom smokes, the higher the risk! • Listen at levels below 85 dB (about 60% on a sound level setting) and listen for no more than 60 minutes at a time with "rest time" for your ears. • Don’t fall asleep while listening to music, especially if wearing earbuds. • If using music as white noise to help falling asleep, choose a playlist of soft songs and play from a speaker, rather than headphones. • High pitched sounds can damage easier and sooner, so tune down the heavy metal! For more information on the noisy toy list go to: www.audiologyonline.com/releases/sight-hearing-association-releases-annual-12388-12388.
For more information on hearing go to the American Speech Language and Hearing Association at www.asha.org/public.
Visit Dr. JJ at mdmoms.com.