We live in a fast-paced world focused on technology. It’s hard for many of us to remember a time when we didn’t have 24/7 access to the Internet via our mobile phone or a tablet. But these technological wonders also have created some unique issues.In some cases, unregulated device use that may be too loud especially when used with headphones or earbuds, may be contributing to permanent hearing damage.
During May, which the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recognizes as Better Hearing and Speech Month, audiologists are taking the time to address this particular issue by urging parents to carefully consider the role of personal technological devices in the lives of their children.
Nearly 1.5 million children in America (aged 18 or younger) have suffered hearing loss — that’s roughly 17 in 1,000 children. Experts say that noise exposure from iPods, iPhones, MP3 players, and other forms of personal devices is becoming an increasingly common cause of hearing loss in this age group. Often, the child is left alone with a device and turns the volume on high — sometimes on accident, sometimes on purpose — and is overexposed to noise. Young ears are particularly susceptible to this kind of noise damage.
In 2010, a study determined that ownership of personal audio devices — such as iPods and MP3 players — among children had increased from 18 to 76 percent since 2005. Imagine, if that same study were replicated today, how much that percentage might increase. An iPod has a maximum volume that has been measured at 115 decibels — a level that might be considered unsafe when heard through earbuds, and one that can cause hearing loss to listeners of all ages, not just children.
Still, there’s no avoiding technology; it’s a part of our daily lives and has opened new doors in the education of our youth. But parents (and even educators) can observe some safe listening habits when it comes to putting personal technology devices in the hands of children.
Tips for parents: How to instill safe listening habits in your child
- Pay attention to the volume on your child’s listening device and make sure they aren’t adjusting it on their own. In some cases, the technology can have sound level limitations turned on to prevent or limit the overall loudness.
- Try to keep the volume on personal listening devices at about 60 percent — this is generally considered a reasonable and safe volume.
- Here’s a quick way to gauge whether or not your child is listening to a device at too high a volume: if you’re standing an arm’s length away from your child and they can’t hear you, the device is on too loud.
- Take frequent listening breaks from the device — and try not to let your child go longer than an hour listening to the device without a break.
- If your child is going to listen to a device in a noisy area, such as a plane or a car, you might consider noise-cancelling headphones. Since we have a tendency to turn up the volume on a device when our surroundings are noisy, this might help your child keep the volume at a healthy level.
- Pay attention to early warning signs. Noise-induced hearing loss usually develops gradually over time; if your child complains of ringing or buzzing in the ears, or regularly has trouble hearing you, that should be considered a red flag.
Is your child experiencing hearing loss and in need an audiologist? Associated Audiologists has doctoral-level professionals who can help with hearing loss and hearing aids. Contact us today to make an appointment, and prevent hearing problems from affecting your everyday lifestyle.