Save Your Child's Hearing

Each day almost 140 million Americans experience noise levels the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorizes as annoying and disruptive. In fact, if you live in the city, you are among the 87 percent of Americans who are exposed to noise so loud that it has the potential to reduce your hearing capacity over time. It is now estimated by the Better Hearing Institute that more than 28 million Americans-- about 10 percent of the population-- have some type of hearing loss.

Children are especially vulnerable to noise-induced hearing loss, which often happens gradually and without pain from overexposure to noise. Here’s how it happens: Excessive sound exposure damages hearing by over-stimulating the tiny hair cells within a child’s inner ear. There are between 15,000 – 20,000 of these microscopic sensory receptors in the cochlea (inner ear). When these hair cells are damaged, they can no longer transmit sound to the brain.

Hearing damaged by noise is permanently lost and cannot be repaired. Hearing aids can amplify the sound your child hears but as eyeglasses don’t "fix" vision, hearing aids don’t "fix" hearing.

Here are some tips for protecting your hearing in noisy environments:

  • Avoid prolonged exposure to common sources of loud noises (see attached graphic).
  • Have your child wear protective earplugs when he or she is exposed to sustained loud noises.
  • Check that the sound environment (noise from heating/cooling ventilation systems, computer buzz and appliances) at your child’s school is compliant with EPA and OSHA regulations.
  • Keep your home appliances in good working order to avoid consistent noise that your child’s ears may become harmfully accustomed to.
  • Children at schools built near consistent and excessive noise, such as heavy traffic or trains, can be particularly susceptible to hearing loss. These minor modifications can create a more acoustically favorable environment:
    • Wall-to-wall carpeting
    • Acoustically treated tiles on the ceilings and walls
    • Well-fitted and closed windows and doors
    • Quiet heating and ventilation systems

Click to download an image chart showing common noises and when they become dangerous.