Have you ever been to a concert, firework show, or sporting event with excessively high noises? You may have covered your ears, taken a break, or moved back a few rows. Unfortunately, babies do not have the ability to communicate when a noise is too loud or walk away from the situation. One cause of acquired hearing loss is due to exposure to loud noises. This type of acquired hearing loss is cumulative and irreversible, so appropriate noise-blocking equipment is necessary.
Why are babies at a higher risk?
Young children have smaller ear canals so the sound pressure entering the ear is greater. Excessive exposure to loud noises overtime can lead to hearing loss. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 12.5% of children age 6-19 years has suffered permanent damage to hearing loss from excessive exposure to noise. If children are unprotected at a young age, they are at higher risk due to repetitive exposure. Babies or young children cannot communicate when the noise is too loud for them. Some babies may become fussy or cry, but others may sit contently without showing any distress.
What situations are dangerous?
If an event or venue seems loud to the adults attending, children’s ears should be protected. A rule of thumb is if you are at an arms length and have to shout to be heard, it is too loud. Examples of loud noise environments include:
· Sporting Events (professional or amateur)
· Firework shows
· Weddings with DJ or band
· Air shows
· County fairs
· Neighborhood block parties or street festival
· Race cars or horse races
How to monitor hearing development:
Below are the developmentally appropriate milestones for speech and hearing development. If you feel your child is behind in any area, contact your pediatrician.
· Birth to 4 months
o Startles at loud sounds
o Becomes alert or wakes up to loud noises
o Responds through smiling or cooing to your voice
o Calms down at a familiar voice
· 4-9 months
o Smiles when spoken to
o Notice and prefers toys that make sounds
o Turn its head toward familiar sounds
o Make babbling noises
· 9-12 months
o Increased babbling and jargon
o Understands basic requests
o Uses voicing to get attention
For more information on speech/hearing milestones read our article on speech development.
What type of protection is best for babies?
Earplugs are dangerous for babies because they are often too big for a baby’s ear canal and can be a potential choking hazard. Headphones are the best option for full coverage. Here are some options of appropriate baby headphones:
Protect your children’s ears now, so they can enjoy the wonderful sounds the world has to offer!
Cohen, Joyce. “Want a Better Listener? Protect Those Ears.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Mar. 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/03/02/health/02baby.html.
“Hearing Loss in Children.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 Sept. 2016, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hearingloss/noise.html.
Mroz,, Mandy. “Hearing Loss in Children: Everything You Need to Know.” Healthy Hearing, 8 Feb. 2018, www.healthyhearing.com/help/hearing-loss/children.
“Top 5 Noise Cancelling Headphones/Ear-Muffs for Babies and Kids in 2018.” Tech News Central, 2 Jan. 2018, www.technewscentral.com/top-5-noise-cancelling-headphones-for-babies-kids/id_11106.
“When to Protect Your Child's Ears.” Parkview Health, 31 July 2017, community.parkview.com/blog/parkview-health-2/when-to-protect-your-childs-ears.