Noise and children’s hearing


According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, three million children under the age of 18 have some kind of hearing difficulty. A study by Judy Montgomery in 1990 found that 7% of second-graders, 15% of eighth-graders, and 13% of twelfth-graders and 26% of high school seniors who played in the band had a measurable hearing loss. As early as 1972, David Lipscomb studied 1,000 sixth, ninth, and twelfth graders and found that 3.8% of sixth graders, 11% of ninth graders and 10.6% of twelfth graders failed the hearing screening. A follow-up study by David Lipscomb in 1972 studied the hearing of college freshmen and found that 32.9% of one group and 60.7% in a second group had a measurable high-frequency hearing loss. In a more recent study (1996), the Center for Hearing and Communication found that 10% of ninth graders failed a hearing screening and that these students had never before been identified as having hearing difficulties. Furthermore, their teachers reported that these students exhibited learning and behavior problems in the class.

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Noise-induced hearing loss among children is a serious public concern and impacts on speech, language, cognitive, social and emotional development. The National Hearing Conservation Association reported that in a survey of 110 children, ages six to 14, the average noise level during the day was 90 decibels, about the level of city traffic. On the playground, these levels reached 115 decibels, similar to that of a noisy subway or rock music.
Parents must pay attention to noise exposure in children’s recreational activities. They must listen to toys before purchasing them, encourage children to lower the volume on stereos and noisy computer games, avoid or limit exposure at noisy movies and video arcades, and keep the volume down on personal stereo systems with headphones. If your child is in a school band, discuss the volume with the music teacher and encourage your child to wear hearing protection. Pay attention to the warning signs of a noise-induced hearing loss (ringing in the ears, speech sounding muffled) and if you have any questions about your child’s hearing, discuss it with your pediatrician or licensed audiologist. Remember, that noise-induced hearing loss, though permanent, is preventable. Take steps to preserve your child’s hearing today.

Noise harms our children’s hearing, language acquisition, reading and learning skills, and social interactions. The effects of noise on our children’s development has received too little focus. Parents must make it their business to lower the decibel level in their children’s lives. Health experts agree that continuous exposure to noise over 85 decibels (about the loudness level of city traffic), over time, will eventually harm hearing.

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