Parents have been making a lot of noise asking about whether loud music can be damaging to their children’s ears.
This is my rule of thumb: if the noise around you is so loud that you have to shout to be heard, there is a chance of injury and even temporary hearing loss. Initially with brief loud noises, your hearing will return to normal. But over time you can lose your hearing permanently if constantly exposed to loud noise or music – a condition referred to as noise-induced hearing loss.
How can you tell if you or your child is experiencing hearing loss? Acutely, you may hear ringing in your ears or a feeling of fullness that muffles sounds such as speech. You may find your child or teen asking people to repeat what they said or your children are being told by their friends that they don’t hear well.
The best solution for this problem is to prevent hearing loss. For example, teach your children to turn down the volume so you don’t have to shout for them to hear you or so you don’t hear the music coming out of their headphones or ear buds while they are wearing them. This would mean the sounds they are hearing are probably greater than 80 decibels (decibels being a measure of how loud a sound is). If someone listens to 80 decibels for at least an hour a day, their risk of noise-induced hearing loss increases and that hearing loss may become permanent.
Music at a rock concert, or even noise through headphones, played at 110 decibels can damage a youngster’s ears in just 30 minutes. Encourage your children to wear earplugs to a concert, especially if they are going to be near big speakers. They’ll still be able to hear the music, but with less injury to the ear.
If you suspect your child or teen may be experiencing noise-induced hearing loss, talk to your child’s health care professional to make sure it’s not an infection or clogged ear, which can be easily treated. Your child’s health professional can also test your child’s hearing to see if the damage is permanent and if a referral to a hearing specialist for further treatment like hearing aids is warranted.
Hopefully you’ll listen well to tips like these when it comes to protecting your child’s ears, as well as your own, from the dangers of overexposure to loud music.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.