Don't Play Around When it Comes to Excessive Noise Exposure
Doctors warn of danger of hearing loss from loud toys and devices in young children and teens
By: Wolfson Children's Hospital
Loud noise and sounds can be very damaging to a person's hearing. Exposure to loud sounds and the length of time listened can put your child or teen at risk for noise-induced hearing loss.
"The best way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss is to avoid exposure to excessive noise," said Nemours Children's Specialty Care pediatric ear, nose and throat physician Angela Black, MD. "Loud noise can cause hearing loss, and the damage can be permanent."
Sound levels are measured in decibels. The higher the decibel number, the louder the sound. According to the National Institute of Health, repeated exposure to sound over 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss. Dr. Black, who sees patients at Nemours and Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville and also at the Wolfson Children's Specialty Center in Lake City, recommends parents pay attention to the sound levels in their children's activities.
"To protect your child's hearing, listen to sound before purchasing and limit the amount of exposure," said Dr. Black. "Lower the volume when possible. If you can hear a child's device from across a room, that's too loud."
For young children, animated toys are one of the most common ways they are exposed to excessive noise. Although they are designed to stimulate children, many toys can be dangerously loud. Some toys, including rattles, squeaky toys and musical toys, have been reported to emit sounds measuring over 110 decibels, which is comparable to power tools.
"Use caution and test the volume before you buy," Dr. Black said. "You can measure how loud a toy is with a decibel meter or an app on your phone."
When purchasing toys, look for ones with a volume control or an off/on button. Remove the batteries or cover the loudspeaker with tape to lower the volume and reduce the sound.
For older children and teens, potential sources of extreme noise volume can include listening to music, playing computer games and using headphones. Dr. Black recommends parents limit the time duration and intensity that their children are exposed to excessive sound.
While using headphones or earbuds with a smart phone or tablet, listen at half of its maximum volume and limit exposure to no more than 30 minutes in an eight-hour period. If available, limit a device's maximum sound volume and lock it in place with its parental control setting. If the device is not equipped with this feature, there are several app options available online.
"When it comes to loud sound, the general rule is the greater the volume, the shorter the acceptable duration," said Dr. Black. "Listening to music too loud, for several hours a day, will result in an inevitable hearing loss."
If you have questions about protecting your child's hearing, the specialists at Wolfson Children's Hospital encourage you to discuss with your pediatrician.
Nemours Children's Specialty Care, Jacksonville, and Wolfson Children's Hospital have worked together for more than 30 years to provide world-class care for families from Northeast Florida and beyond. The buildings for each are connected by bridge in downtown Jacksonville and many of the physicians you find at Wolfson Children's are employed by Nemours. For more information, visit wolfsonchildrens.com. (http://www.wolfsonchildrens.com/