Dude, Listen To Your Buds

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In our rapidly advancing tech world, children’s usage of iPods and MP3 players is increasing every day. In fact, ownership of these types of listening devices among children has increased from 18% to 76% in just the past 5 years according to the American Speech Language and Hearing Association. These devices are common in our modern world and parents may not always stop and consider the potential consequences of frequent use at unsafe volumes. I’m not saying you have to stand over your kids and monitor their every move. I am saying we need to educate our kids on the dangers of hearing loss due to noise exposure.

Hearing loss due to noise exposure is insidious and often goes unnoticed until it is too late. The American Speech Language and Hearing Association or ASHA is increasing awareness of the issue by putting together an informational website at Listen To Your Buds. It’s purpose is to help educate parents and caregivers on the dangers of noise induced hearing loss. It has a wealth of information for parents to educate themselves on topics such as what is a safe volume to listen to, dealing with an already present hearing loss, common noise making items in our homes, and warning signs to look for in your child. Tempted to blow off this issue? Think it won’t happen to your child? Think again. Here are some interesting statistics:

  • According to a study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children ages 8-18 are spending an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes engaged in entertainment media per day. Because they are often using multiple medias at once, they are able to cram 10 hours and 45 minutes into that 7 plus hours.
  • A poll conducted by ASHA found that a little more than a quarter of teens had experienced difficulty hearing a television show or holding a conversation at a normal volume. Also, more than half of the teens who responded reported at least one symptom of hearing loss.

Still need convincing this is an important issue? According to ASHA, a hearing loss can affect all aspects of your child’s life:

  • Difficulty speaking and understanding verbal communication.
  • Problems in academic achievement, including language arts, vocabulary, arithmetic, and problem solving.
  • Lower scores on achievement and verbal IQ tests.
  • Greater need for enrollment in special education or extra support in the classroom.
  • Feelings of isolation, exclusion, embarrassment, annoyance, confusion, and helplessness.
  • A reluctance to participate in activities with others.
  • Significant problems following directions.
  • Numerous physiological changes, sleep difficulties, digestive problems, delayed emotional development, stress related disorders, behavioral problems, body fatigue, and possible immunological effects.

So what can we do about the problem? Educate our kids and model safe listening behavior. Hearing loss can occur not just from prolonged exposure but also from short exposure to a very loud noise, think being too close to a firecracker. Things we hear every day can cause damage: concerts, lawn mowers, grass blowers (I personally hate these things), power tools, firecrackers, household appliances, toys and musical instruments. I admit, I am guiltyof going to concerts in my twenties and having my ears ring afterwards. Now, I wear ear plugs not just to concerts but when I mow the lawn, am around power tools, or any time we are going to be around something noisey. I make my kids wear them too or stay away from the sound. It may be tempting to blow off hearing protection and think just one time won’t hurt but it just takes one time to do damage. Here are some rules of thumb to tell if a noise is too loud:

  • If you have to raise your voice to be heard, it is too loud. Think a KISS concert or a roller coaster.
  • If you have troule hearing someone who is an arm’s length away from you, it is too loud.
  • Anytime you have pain, ringing or buzzing in your ears after exposure to loud sounds, it is too loud.
  • If speech sounds muffled or dull after noise exposure, it is too loud. Think the day after the KISS concert.

ASHA also provides a list of warning signs to watch out for in your children. If you think you, your child, or someone you love may have a hearing loss or a speech and language problem it is important to get it checked out. You can find an ASHA certified speech pathologist or audiologist here or call 800-638-TALK (8255). Remember, you only get one set of ears.

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