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Protecting Baby’s Hearing

4063589831_6d0e4f6317_mHere’s an exciting worry for parents who may have been starting to relax about safety hazards: your kid’s hearing. Although they’re prodigious noisemakers themselves, babies are extra-sensitive to loud noises and repeated early exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss.

Our world is full of too much sound: concerts, sports events, fireworks displays, subway cars. The list goes on and on. Very loud noises damage our hearing, and this kind of hearing loss is both cumulative and irreversible.

Any sustained exposure to noise over 100 decibels is potentially harmful. Kids are at special risk for hearing loss from loud noises because their ears are smaller. A baby’s tiny ear canal amplifies sound, so much so that they may hear the noise as 20 decibels louder than an adult will.

The good news is that this kind of hearing loss is fairly easy to avoid. You can start by using common sense.

  • Don’t take your two-year-old to a rock concert.
  • Consider sitting a little further afield at an outdoor show or fireworks display.
  • If you go to a lot of sports events or other loud activities, invest in child-size protective earmuffs .

I had never worried about my kid’s hearing before. I just took it for granted that they can hear fine, and will continue to. We have a few simple rules like, ‘No listening to music through headphones,” and “No turning the stereo up so loud it gives Mommy a splitting headache in the next room.” But I didn’t realize more general environmental noise, like they’ll encounter at a music festival or sporting event, was a serious hazard.

I’m not normally one to get excited about shadowy dangers to my children’s fragile health. This one looks real to me, though. Their little ears are fragile, and there are a few simple things I can do as a mom to help them stay healthy through childhood. I just wish I’d known about these risks before I spent half my first pregnancy hanging out in nightclubs.

What about you? Are you conscious of protecting your kid’s hearing? Do you think this is something parents need to be concerned about, or just another sign of our too-protective times?

Photo: Niki Tysoe

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