CenturyLink Field was once again rocking during the Seahawks’ 20-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans Sunday.. But, can those decibel levels cause harm to children? ParentMap’s Hilary Benson discusses how excess noise can cause hearing loss in kids.
Husky and Seahawks games get very loud. Is there a risk to children?
Yes, there can be risk of permanent damage to kids' hearing anytime the decibel readings are high, and not even 136 decibels level high. A decibel level around 110 can cause permanent damage to hearing. When the teeny hair cells in the ear are damaged, they don’t regenerate.
What are some factors to keep in mind when thinking about hearing loss?
Hearing loss is caused by more than just high decibel levels. One factor is proximity to sound. If you are right in front of a speaker or noise source, the risk is greater. Another is simply genetics, as some individuals will be more at risk than others. The most important thing to consider, however, is the amount of time someone is exposed to loud noise. When a game or event lasts several hours, the risk for hearing damage is greater, even if the noise isn’t close to record-breaking territory. The National Institute of Health recommends no more than 15 minutes of exposure to noise in the 100 decibel range.
Should parents be concerned about their children using earbuds and MP3 players?
Absolutely. In fact, it's that repeated exposure that is the biggest risk. Studies estimate one in five teens has permanent hearing loss.Depending on the device and the quality of the earbuds or headphones, MP3 players can produce noise in the 105 decibel range. With new technology, it’s possible to listen to those loud levels for several hours on end. A 2010 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that that listening to loud music through ear buds is probably the main reason more adolescents are losing some of their hearing.
What are some things we can buy to minimize the risk?
Reduced sensitivity earbuds can help. Kids may try to crank the volume, but they limit the sound to safe levels for four hours of listening. If you want to just block noise, there are variations on the foam earplugs, plus ones that are form fitting. This is good for a kid in a band or orchestra For little kids, earmuffs for loud events are good. They knock sound down 30 decibels.
Any rules of thumb for when to tell your kids to turn it down?
The UW's Bloedel Hearing Center says you tell your children to turn it down when:
- The noise hurts their ears, especially with young kids.
- If you have to raise your voice to be heard
- If you can hear music from earbuds
- If they develop a buzzing or ringing sound
Kids and teens may not like you for this and it may feel like you’re nagging, but you're doing them a favor down the line because hearing loss is cumulative.
For more information, look at ParentMap's article on hearing loss in children.