Turn It Down: How to Protect Young Ears from Loud Sounds

What do fire engines, vacuum cleaners and toy phones all have in common? They produce dangerously loud sounds that can cause significant and irreversible damage to young ears. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that repeated exposure to loud noises has left 5.2 million American children ages 6 to 19 with some degree of hearing loss.

How Loud is Too Loud?
Exposure to sounds 85 decibels or higher can damage your child’s ears, according to the CDC. Here are some examples of common noises and the level of sound they emit.

  • 140 decibels: Children’s toys with simulated gunfire sounds

  • 120 decibels: Ambulance or fire siren

  • 100 decibels: Noisy subway

  •  90 decibels: Lawn mower, hair dryer

  •  80 decibels: Ringing telephone, city traffic

  • 60 decibels: Normal conversation

  •  40 decibels: Humming refrigerator

  • 30 decibels: Whisper

Listen Up!
The delicate ears of infants are particularly susceptible to the dangers of loud noises. Because of this, the CDC strongly urges parents to muffle ear-piercing noises by:

  • Lowering the volume on the TV, stereo and computer. Also, limit trips with your baby to shopping malls or supermarkets where noise levels can be exceptionally high for prolonged periods of time.

  • Listening to toys in the store before buying them. If a toy’s sound hurts your ears, it will hurt your child’s ears, too.

  • Keeping your baby away from objects that generate a lot of noise, such as a vacuum cleaner or hair dryer. Rule of thumb: If it’s uncomfortably loud for you, it’s too loud for your child.

Further Reading
What’s that you say: Still want to know more about children’s hearing health? Check out these sound resources: