Adjusting the Volume: Preventing Hearing Loss
The effects of noisy homes and classrooms are an often overlooked source of stress. Many of us learned through sheltering in place this past year exactly how loud our households can be. Consider all the noises in the home – televisions, kids, pets, a dishwasher, a washing machine/dryer and lawn work can all be happening at the same time. Then toss in virtual school for kids and an online conference call for a parent. It all leads to an incredible amount of noise. Even squeakers in pet toys can be surprisingly loud ranging between 110 and 135 decibels – especially considering that normal conversations range between 50 and 60 decibels.
Many adults and children use headphones or Bluetooth-enabled devices to listen to music, participate in video conferences, or even to tune out noisy backgrounds. However, these devices themselves can create hearing problems when listening too loud. It is recommended to keep the volume under 85 decibels and to give your ears breaks from listening. This is extremely important when we are using these devices in the presence of a noisy household as we tend to turn up the volume to dangerous levels to overcome the background noise.
Limiting the noise
First keep the volumes low on headphones and Bluetooth-enabled devices. Don’t use these items to block out noise and when you are at concerts or other recreational activities that have high volumes, use hearing protection. Hearing protection can be custom made for children and adults and there is lots of really amazing technology to help protect your hearing for all sorts of occasions. You can also find volume limiting headphones for children. Second control your household the best you can. Save running the dishwasher and laundry for evening time when all the day’s virtual activities are completed. Lastly turn off or mute the television and other items when they are not purposely being watched. They just create more noise to overcome.
When to refer to an audiologist
As always, a referral to an audiologist should be made when a child fails a screening either at their physician’s office or at their school. However with increased virtual learning and increased use of ear-level devices such as headphones, earbuds and other Bluetooth enabled devices in children and teens, a few screening questions should be considered as sources of referrals also. When asking parents and children about screen time, it’s a good idea to ask how they are listening as much as how often they are engaging in screen time each day. This can be followed up by another quick question to teens with phones concerning how much time they spend each day listening to music through ear-level devices. Another great question is to ask parents is whether they can hear any of what their child is listening to through these devices when standing near their child. If the answer to this is yes, they need to be tested by an audiologist to determine if there is hearing loss or if current listening levels are dangerously loud. If screen time is higher than your recommended time, then their listening time is most likely also too high.
How an audiologist can help
Many times, especially with younger children, one size fits all hearing protection doesn’t fit all small ears well. Audiologists can make impressions of any child’s ear and can then provide custom fit earplugs for their small ears. Some examples of the custom molds Cook Children’s audiologists can provide:
- Swim plugs to help keep water out of sensitive ears.
- Musicians’ plugs are custom earplugs that are designed to protect hearing while preserving all of the richness of music. Typical earplugs muffle all music so the sound is often distorted especially to a trained musical ear. They can also provide traditional earplugs for noise reduction in a custom mold which is great for loud sounds such as yard work when quality isn’t needed.
- For hunters and shooting sportsmen, typical custom molds for noise reduction work well. There are electronic molds that allow hearing to be typical until a shot is fired and then it quickly reduces sounds to protect hearing.
Our internal physicians typically send a referral through EPIC to Audiology. External physicians can fax a referral to:
Lisa Vaughan, Au.D.
Audiology Program Manager