March 3rd marks World Hearing Day, an effort by the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise public awareness of hearing loss and hearing health. This year’s theme, “Childhood hearing loss: act now, here is how!”, highlights the 32 million children with hearing loss worldwide and aims to raise awareness of the importance of early hearing loss detection during this critical period of language and social development.
Causes of Hearing Loss in Children
While the WHO estimates about 40 percent of hearing loss is caused by genetic factors, the remaining 60 percent of causes are preventable. Preventable causes include infections, exposure ototoxic medications, and birth complications. Exposure to loud noises, whether from electronics or loud crowds, also poses a threat to children’s ears.
What Parents Can Do
Here are five ways parents can help keep their children’s hearing safe.
- Buy Noise-Limiting Headphones
Kids and teens have a tendency to push volume to the limits. Use noise reducing headphones like these to ensure they’ll never turn it high enough to damage their hearing.
- Listen to Your Children’s Toys
Many commonly sold children’s toys emit sounds over 85 decibels, the level at which hearing damage occurs. Test your children’s toys by downloading a free sound meter on your smartphone. If toys test too loud, you can either remove the batteries or place duct tape over the speaker until it falls within the safe range.
- Invest in Ear Protection
Children should always wear ear protection at events where there will be crowds, loud music, and other loud sounds, such as fireworks. Invest in a set of earmuff-like hearing protectors on hand to make sure children’s ears are protected from their earliest days.
Infections such as measles, mumps and rubella remain a leading cause of childhood hearing loss worldwide. Vaccinating your child against these viruses helps to protect their hearing and prevents the spread of these viruses to others who are not be able to be vaccinated due to pre-existing health conditions.
- Model Safe Listening Habits
Our society tends to underestimate the value of hearing and how easily it can be damaged. By providing a better model of hearing care, you grow your child’s awareness of hearing dangers and the importance of protecting their ears. Some ways to do this include turning down the television and electronic devices when they are too loud, covering your ears when exposed to sudden loud noises, and discussing the importance of using headphones at a safe volume.