Hearing Loss (Pedcast)

Good evening, and welcome to another addition of DocSmo.com, the home of Portable, Practical, Pedcasts dedicated to parents and children. Today we’re going to take on a topic that probably has not been on your radar: the problem of acquired hearing loss in children. There are risks to your children’s hearing in everyday life, and I feel that parents need to know the basics about sound, noise, and hearing loss in order to protect their children during childhood. So, let’s take the plunge and find out more, shall we?

First, a little trip down what I call Science Lane. We’re gonna do a little basic science about noise and sound and how it’s measured. Sound can be measured in two ways: first in terms of volume, how loud the sound is. This we measure with units called decibels. This is a logarithmic scale, so 100 decibels is a LOT louder than 50 decibels. The threshold of human hearing is about 15 dB…very quiet. And we begin to get into the damage zone for a child’s hearing at about 80 dB, certainly above 100 dB. So, that’s volume. The second way we measure sound is in terms of the frequency of the sound. Speech is a low frequency sound, and certain musical instruments like the flute produce high-frequency sounds. Speaking softly is a low decibel, low frequency sound, whereas listening to a flute is a high volume, high frequency sound. Got it?

The most common hearing loss that pediatricians see in children comes along with cold and ear infections. This is a low-frequency sound loss and fortunately is temporary until the child’s ear infection clears up. As we age, we lose our hearing very slowly. Older people and those exposed to a lot of noise tend to lose high-frequency hearing first. If you don’t remember anything else from this lesson on hearing, I want you to remember this: noise exposure that can damage hearing comes in two forms, first being very brief but very loud noises like shooting a gun, the second type being moderately loud noises, in the range of  80 decibels and higher, that go on for long periods of time. Either of these types of noise exposures can eventually lead to hearing loss. More on this in a minute.

So, as I said before, I want to make you aware that noise can damage your children’s hearing. I want you to do everything you can to protect your kids during childhood. This is important. They may not get the hearing loss until they are adults, but it’s still very important to their overall health and well-being. Now, the number one cause of hearing loss in United States is shooting guns such as shotguns and handguns and yes, children do this as well or they are around when this is being done. Additionally, few people seem to know that power tools like nail guns can also permanently cause hearing loss. These devices produce extremely loud noise, in the 120-140 decibel range, but the noise is so brief, our brains can’t perceive just how damaging this kind of noise can be.

And here are some other kinds of loud noises that have the potential to damage your child’s hearing: lawnmowers–a lot of kids run lawnmowers, and use hairdryers, and those teenage girls love t0 dry their hair every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and certain types of musical instruments like in a very loud wind instruments, and recorded music–especially when delivered with their ear bud devices very close to a child’s eardrum, and motorcycles and farm equipment–All these things have the potential to damage your child’s hearing. I think you should insist that your children wear hearing protection when they are around any of these noise generators and limit their exposure. You need to insist on it. You are the adult in the room!

“Hearing protection around lawnmowers and hairdryers and musical instruments Doc Smo, did I really just hear you say that?” Yes, I really just said that, and I also want you to teach your kids the “warning signs” that sound is too loud for their ears, the number one signal being that the sound hurts when you first start listening to it. We’ve all had that experience of getting in the car the radio really loud and it hurts when you first start listening. That level of sound is damaging. Signal one, the sound hurts initially. The second sign is to hear ringing after noise exposure, this almost always means that there’s been some damage to one’s hearing.

So, to summarize, I want you to be aware that either very loud brief noises repeatedly or moderately loud noise over a long period time can damage your children’s hearing. I want you to try to protect them with some kind of hearing protection, and that’s especially important if they cut the grass (95 db), dry their hair with an electric dryer (85-90 db), shoot weapons (140-170 db), are around motorcycles and loud engines (95 db), as well as any other situation that you think might warrant protecting their precious hearing. Let me tell you it’s much easier to keep your kids from losing their hearing than it is to get their hearing back after they have lost it. That’s true for parents as well. Make sure you set a good example for them, won’t you?

This is Doc Smo, thanking you for joining me and hoping you enjoyed my little chatter, about a subject that really matters. Until next time.

Smo Notes:

1. http://www.kessler-rehab.com/company/newsroom/Tips-on-Preventing-Hearing-Loss.aspx

2. http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Newsroom/News-Releases/1982/CPSC-Cautions-Hair-Dryer-Owners/

3. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/what-causes-hearing-loss/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

4. http://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/10/style/consumer-saturday-hair-dryer-safety-standards.html