Learn How to Protect Your Student’s Hearing During Hearing Awareness Week
One of the goals of Hearing Awareness Week, which takes place in the first week of March, is to draw attention to hearing loss. Almost 4 million people in Australia are affected by this hearing loss, and a major cause is overexposure to loud noise.
Damage from loud noise may not be immediately noticeable and it can worsen over time. Children who acquire hearing damage can struggle academically, especially if the problem isn’t identified quickly, and may need additional supports to succeed in school.
To protect kids’ hearing, parents need to know what can cause hearing damage and what they can do to prevent it.
Avoid excessive noise
This is the most obvious and effective way to protect children from hearing loss. The louder the sound, the faster hearing damage occurs; therefore the louder the sound, the more dangerous it is.
You might be thinking that rock concert level noise is where the risk begins, but regular and/or sustained exposure to loud sounds at home can be damaging too. To avoid exposure to excessive sound at home, monitor the sound level when your child is wearing headphones and have them keep the volume reasonable when listening to music in their room or watching TV. Also, ensure your child understands that it is never safe to shout in someone’s ear or place their ear close to noisy objects.
Some professionals encourage the use of headphones instead of earbuds as the sound quality is better, meaning kids are less likely to turn it up to a dangerous level. There are also kid-friendly headphones with built-in volume limiters to ensure the sound can’t be turned up too loud.
Set volume limits
The unit of measurement for sound is decibels (dB). Experts state that prolonged exposure to noise at, or in excess of, 85 decibels can result in hearing loss. To put this into perspective, traffic on an average city street measures around 85 dB. 100 dB noise can damage hearing in under 15 minutes and noise above 120 dB can cause immediate damage.
An easy way to ensure kids don’t exceed acceptable decibel levels is to make use of the volume limit settings on television, phones, gaming systems, tablets, and headphones. Some devices can reach up to 105 dB, which can cause hearing damage in under 5 minutes. The volume limit setting restricts the sound from being raised above a safe limit, even if your child turns the sound all the way up.
It’s also important to minimise the time spent using headphones. 90 minutes or less per day is recommended, as prolonged exposure can increase the risk to kids’ hearing.
Wear ear protection
Sometimes it’s not possible to avoid loud noises. Home renovations, roadwork and noisy traffic can damage hearing over time. Attending concerts, fireworks displays, speedway events and even the movies, can all pose risks as well. Even playing some musical instruments can be a source of damage.
Reducing the risk of hearing damage is as easy as buying some earmuffs that fit your child. According to Australian standards, hearing protection is divided into five classes, with Class 5 offering the highest level of protection.
Disposable earplugs are a cheap and convenient option available from chemists and supermarkets. There are a wide range of choices, so be sure the one you choose is rated for the level of protection your child needs.
Download a decibel meter app
It can be difficult to recognise when noise has reached unacceptable levels. Decibel meter apps use the microphone on your smartphone to determine if ear protection is needed.
Displays are usually colour coded to make it easy to see when sound levels become too loud. These apps are very handy in places like shopping centres, play centres and large events where noise is difficult to control.
To protect your child’s hearing, encourage them be aware of noise levels, and make hearing protection a part of everyday life.