While it’s true that most hearing loss tends to take a long time to develop, and that much of it tends to show itself in our later years, it’s also true that there’s no point in rushing that development along. Simply put, it’s never too soon to start protecting the sense of hearing.
If you have children, foster a hearing-healthy lifestyle for them right away. Not only can it help them delay/prevent later-life hearing loss, it can keep them for experiencing immediate and irreparable childhood hearing loss. Here are some basics to keep in mind:
Make sure your children are up-to-date on their vaccinations. Infectious diseases (e.g., measles, mumps, rubella) are a major factor in childhood hearing loss, the world over. In developing nations, such precautions can be hard to come by; those of us who have them readily available should make use of them.
Limit headphone usage. Pouring dangerously loud levels of sound directly into the ear canal is a very bad idea. And in contemporary life, it’s not just about rock ‘n’ roll. Gaming, podcasts, movies, tv shows—and music, of course—anything accessed via earphones, can be listened to at harmful volumes in excess of 85 decibels. Consider getting some noise-limiting earphones and putting limits on the amount of time your children spend listening through headphones is a great place to start.
Recognize that younger children can be exposed to overly loud sound, too. In a world where it seems that just about every toy makes a noise of some kind, it’s a good idea to test the sound level of children’s toys by downloading a free sound level meter on your smartphone. You may be surprised to find that your child has toys with sound levels above 85-decibels.
Get hearing protection for the entire family. Taking the family to a loud sporting event or concert? A fireworks display, perhaps? Invest in some good quality earplugs or another hearing protection device to take some of the edge off crowd noise, loud PA systems and sudden high-volume noise. And keep that ear protection handy around the house for anyone who’s going to be mowing the lawn or operating other loud, motorized equipment. Common household gear like lawn mowers and power tools can easily cross over that 85-decibel threshold.
Keep a hearing-healthy home. Nothing sets an example like personal dedication to an idea. Watching a game or movie? Show your children by example that there’s no need for huge volume in order to enjoy a good time. Going out to mow the lawn? Make sure YOU put on your ear protection. And don’t be afraid to ask for a chance to listen to whatever your son or daughter has in their headphones at any given time. Spot-checking their volume levels isn’t an invasion of privacy, it’s a gesture that can save their long-term hearing health.