The sounds of summer can be music to one’s ears, but they can also cause damage, especially to Baby. From lawn mowers and fireworks to outdoor summer concerts, prolonged exposure to loud sounds can lead to noise-induced hearing loss in little ones.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB). Normal conversation is typically around 60 dB. Regular exposure to noise higher than 85 dB can cause hearing loss. Considering an average concert blasts sound between 100 – 120 dB, you might want to think twice before taking Baby along to that next show … or make sure you’re appropriately protecting his ears.
“Overexposure to loud noise is the most common cause of noise-induced hearing loss in children,” says Dontal Johnson, M.D., CPT, assistant professor of pediatrics at Meharry Medical College in Nashville.
BABIES HEAR IN UTERO, TOO
Babies are more sensitive to sound than adults, so how loud is too loud for them? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests avoiding noise levels exceeding 45 dB.
“Often, this is the rule applied in NICUs across America,” Johnson says. While short-term effects of loud noises are usually tinnitus (ringing in the ear) or a temporary shift in the sound threshold, longer exposure can cause permanent problems.
“Long-term exposure, greater than eight hours of persistently loud noise (85 dB) can lead to permanent damage, or sensorineural hearing loss,” Johnson says.
Hearing loss in babies can lead to speech delays, and loud noises can cause other complications for young children, too.
“Some studies have demonstrated that loud noises can lead to hypoxemia (low oxygen level in the blood) in infants as well as behavioral and physiological changes. Other studies have linked associations between chronic loud noise exposure and impaired cognitive function, decreased reading comprehension, growth retardation, long-term memory problems and sleep disturbances to name a few,” Johnson says.
The ball can begin rolling on those aforementioned issues before Baby is born. If you’re pregnant and attend loud concerts or other events, keep in mind there’s a potential negative effect on your unborn child.
“Fetuses are definitely affected by sound in general,” says Johnson. “Environmental noises or sounds have been well-documented to transmit into the uterine environment,” he adds.
PRODUCTS TO HELP
Many protective ear plugs and noise-cancelling headphones are on the market for infants. Get a set. While the complete avoidance of loud environments for babies is your safest bet, the real world is full of loud noises so you’ll want to be sure Baby’s covered. And, if you have concerns about your baby’s hearing, consult your pediatrician.
Here are the top baby headphones from soundproofingtips.com. (NRR = Noise Reduction Rate):
Baby Banz Ear Protector Muffs 31 dB NRR | Ages 0 – 2 | $30 banzworld.com
BEBE Muff Hearing Protection 25 dB NRR | Ages 3 – 24 mos | $34.97 bebe.com
EM’s 4 Bubs 22 dB NRR | Ages 0 – 18 mos | $30.99 earmuffsforkids.com
Snug Kid Ear Defenders 30 dB NRR | Ages 6 mos+ | $16.95 snugtogether.com
Featured photo courtesy of Baby Banz Ear Protector Muffs.