Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Children
What is noise-induced hearing loss?
Your child’s inner ears may be damaged if he or she is around extremely loud noises or around loud noises for long periods of time. This is called noise-induced hearing loss.
One way of describing noise is by decibels.
- Normal conversation is usually about 60 decibels.
- Regularly being around noise that is more than 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.
Which noises can affect hearing?
Level of safety
Type of noise
Permanent hearing loss may happen
Fireworks within 3 feet, guns, jet engine
Jet plane, siren, jackhammer
Personal music player set at loudest level, chain saw, radio-controlled airplane
Gradual hearing loss may happen over time
What causes noise-induced hearing loss?
Loud noises can damage the hair cells in the inner ear and the hearing nerve. This is called sensorineural hearing loss or nerve deafness. Sensorineural hearing loss also has many other causes.
Hearing loss from loud noises may happen right away or slowly over a period of years. It may be permanent or temporary.
Who is at risk for noise-induced hearing loss?
Your child may be around loud noise anywhere. Examples of noises that can cause hearing loss include:
- Common sources of noise from loud appliances such as hair dryers, food processors, blenders; traffic or subway; or tools or equipment such as leaf blowers and lawn mowers.
- Recreational activities like rock concerts, snowmobiles, go-carts, or radio-controlled airplanes.
- Listening to music on a personal device, like an MP3 player, with the volume turned up too high.
What are the symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss?
Having trouble hearing is the main symptom of noise-induced hearing loss. Your child may have the following:
- Trouble hearing soft or faint sounds
- Normal conversation may sound muffled or unclear
- Ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus)
How is noise-induced hearing loss diagnosed?
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask question about your child’s hearing. He or she will examine your child, paying close attention to the ears. Your child may be referred to a specialist for hearing testing.
Hearing testing is usually done by an audiologist or an ENT. An ENT is a specialist who treats problems with the ears, nose, and throat.
How is noise-induced hearing loss treated?
Once the hearing nerve is damaged, it is permanent. Treatment may include:
- Hearing aids. They may be used to help your child hear better.
- Cochlear implants. They are devices that work damaged parts of the inner ear. The implants are only recommended for some children. For example, a child with little or no benefit from hearing aids after 6 months of use.
- Hearing protection. To protect your child from further hearing loss, keep the child away from loud noise. Your child should also use ear plugs or muffs when loud noise cannot be avoided.
What are the complications of noise-induced hearing loss?
Permanent hearing loss is the most serious complication of noise-induced hearing loss. Regularly being around loud noise can also cause:
- High blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Upset stomach
- Difficulty sleeping
- Irritability and increased tiredness
- Trouble sleeping
- Ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus)
Can noise-induced hearing loss be prevented?
You and your children should use earplugs or muffs when you know you will be around loud noise. Earplugs fit into the outer ear. Earmuffs fit over the entire outside of the ear. Both help prevent hearing loss. Other things to do include:
- Protect your child from loud noise
- Be aware of noises in your environment
- Know which noises are too loud and can cause damage
- Get your child's hearing checked if hearing loss is suspected
How is noise-induced hearing loss managed?
Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent. To protect your child’s hearing from further damage and to help your child manage hearing loss:
- Try to keep your child away from loud noises.
- When your child is going to be around loud noises, he or she should use earplugs or muffs.
- Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about which medicines may cause further hearing damage.
- Talk with your child’s provider about activities such as scuba diving that may cause further damage.
- Talk with your child’s provider about special therapy for speech, language, and hearing.
When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?
Call your child’s healthcare provider if your child has:
- Symptoms of hearing loss
- Been around a very loud noise and has symptoms that don’t go away
- Difficulty in school
Key points about noise-induced hearing loss
- Your child’s inner ears may be damaged if he or she is around extremely loud noises or around loud noises for long periods of time.
- Noise-induced hearing loss is gradual and painless. Once the hearing nerve is destroyed, it is permanent.
- A hearing test can be done by an audiologist or an ENT. An ENT is a specialist who treats problems with the ears, nose, and throat.
- Permanent hearing loss is the most serious complication of noise-induced hearing loss.
- Use earplugs or muffs to help prevent hearing loss.
Next stepsTips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
- If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.