Although we often think of hearing loss as a plight of the elderly, children are also susceptible to the condition. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that some 32 million children around the globe suffer from some form of hearing loss – a staggering number.
That being said, the WHO also estimates that about 60% of these children have hearing loss that could have been prevented. While some children are born without the ability to hear and others have unavoidable conditions that lead to hearing loss, for that 60% of children who can avoid hearing loss, preventative interventions by parents and caregivers are critical.
Parents and caregivers want the best for their children, so the thought that your child could develop preventable hearing loss is a scary one, indeed. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help your child maintain good hearing health throughout their life. Here’s what you can do:
Stress the importance of hearing health. Many children – and adults for that matter – don’t realize how important their hearing actually is nor do they recognize the dangerous situations we often put our hearing in when we expose ourselves to loud noises. It’s easy to overlook the importance of something that we take for granted, so teaching children to respect the value of their own hearing can help them start to take personal responsibility for their own hearing health.
Set a maximum volume on electronic devices. Many modern smartphones and computers have parental control settings that can limit the maximum volume of music or videos that children can listen to. This can be a good way to protect a child’s hearing, especially if they’re not old enough or mature enough to understand the importance of their own hearing abilities. For older children and teenagers who are more likely to see this action as a sign of parental interference in their independence, a conversation about the importance of these volume limits could be helpful.
Choose quality headphones. There are so many different headphones on sale today that it can be really difficult to choose a pair that is less likely to cause hearing damage. Although playing music too loudly on any set of headphones can hurt your ears, there are some headphone choices that are better than others in this regard. For the most part, earbuds are best avoided because they allow too much background noise to get to your ears, encouraging people to turn up the volume too much higher levels than they actually should. Over the ear and noise-canceling headphones can help alleviate some of that problem.
Use hearing protection. Especially if you take children to sporting events, concerts, or other noisy venues, you might want to consider investing in some hearing protection. Ear protection can include anything from custom molded earplugs to protective ear muffs, so it’s important to find a pair that works well for your children. It’s also worth considering the use of ear protection when a child practices playing an instrument indoors and at home as repeated exposure to loud instruments, including percussion and brass instruments, can have a negative impact on one’s hearing health.
At the end of the day, there’s a lot we can do to help protect a child from preventable hearing loss. Many of these steps are simple and don’t require a huge time or financial commitment but they could protect your child’s hearing, so they’re well worth the investment.