Does your child like prefer the television louder than the rest of the family? Do you often hear your child’s music even when he is wearing headphones? Is your child listening to hours of loud music for multiple hours a day? Does your child have to remove her earbuds to hear anything you are saying to her? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, it may be time to investigate your child’s hearing as he could be damaging it.
While watching television and listening to music is a regular component of childhood, doing so at extreme values may be doing more harm than either of you realize. Think about it, though. You likely had a preferred soundtrack for your teenage years that helped you learn to express yourself and laid the groundwork for your self-discovery. I recall listening to music during my homework sessions, while riding in the car, and anywhere else I could. But when I was listening, music was on a boombox or Walkman – quite different than the way youth “jam out” today.
Most young people today are listening to music or their favorite sitcoms and videos on earbuds with compact music-making devices, like iPods and even phones. This listening format places sound much closer to the delicate inner ear structures. Likewise, the compact size of these devices makes it easier to listen to music and watch videos at any time of the day. In fact, a recent study conducted by Common Sense Media actually found that on average teens consume 9 hours of media daily, and the most popular activity is listening to music.
So why does it matter? Aside from the constant barrage of media itself, this practice of constantly being connected or plugged in to some kind of device could actually be impacting your child’s hearing. Actually a study from 2010 found that one in five teenagers actually has hearing loss, and the number is probably much higher today. Unfortunately, once hearing is negatively impacted, the damage or loss is permanent, and the impact to your child’s life can be significant. Struggling to communicate while at school or play, missing the punch line of jokes, and otherwise having a difficult time relating to other children his or her age are all ways that hearing loss may impact your child’s life.
At this point, you are likely wondering what you can do. The good news is there are several measures that you can take to help prevent further damage. Likewise, knowing the warning signs and what to look for can help you seek the necessary support and treatment your child needs to prevent further loss or damage.
Educating children about the dangers of hearing loss is one of the first steps to reversing this growing epidemic. It’s important to recognize that we need to start the education process well before children reach the teenage years, though. Elementary school is an ideal time for this education because this is a time when children are beginning to develop the self-care habits they will implement through their lives. Likewise, children this age are much more willing to accept the advice about how to stay safe and healthy from adults in their lives.
The education process must involve teaching children how hearing works and how to protect it. A simple visual illustration that demonstrates how sound travels can be extremely effective. You can conduct this same type of experiment with the children in your life using a decibel reader to measure the loudness of different sounds and illustrating how when you move farther away from the sound, the quitter it becomes.
Children also need to know the three basic steps for protecting their hearing:
- Move Away – Moving away from a sound is one of the most effective ways to decrease the impact of a sound on your hearing.
- Turn It Down – When possible, turning the volume down on a noise is also effective for protecting one’s hearing.
- Block the Noise – If moving away or blocking the noise aren’t viable options, then blocking the noise in one of many ways is a final solution for preventing damage. Protective barriers include ear plugs, muffs, or even physical barriers.
Keep in mind that when proper protection is used and music and other media is safely consumed, noise-induced hearing loss is actually 100 percent preventable. We just need to do our part to educate all of the children in our lives to keep them and their hearing safe.