It’s never too late to protect your hearing

Reading Time: 5 minutes
"by " Albert Stein

It’s never too soon to start educating young people about the importance of healthy hearing habits. The smart listening behaviors your children learn in their youth will benefit them in years to come.  

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.1 million teenagers and young adults are at risk for developing hearing loss from exposure to noise through headphones, at loud concerts, or at sporting events1. Overtime, exposure to sound over 85 decibels can impair hearing. It’s not uncommon for headphone volume to reach 100 decibels – and rock concerts can register a whopping 120 decibels. 

Exposure to loud noise damages the tiny hair cells in the ear that receive sound. When too many hair cells are damaged, they lose their ability to transmit sound to your brain. New evidence suggests that even subtle hearing loss in young people, the kind that you may not notice, puts demands on the brain that could pave the way for dementia later in life2

A study by Johns Hopkins University showed that only 8 percent of adolescents and young adults are aware of the potentially damaging and sometimes permanent effects of noise-induced hearing loss3. Young people are especially susceptible since many teens frequently wear headphones to listen to music, watch movies, or play video games. 

Encouraging smart listening habits at home will help your kids to reap the benefits both now and in the future. Educate your kids about the steps they can take to protect their long-term hearing:

Turn down the volume
Is loud always more fun? Today’s maxed out volume is tomorrow’s inability to enjoy dinner conversations or university lectures. Most smartphones have a volume limit that allows you to limit the volume automatically. It is recommended to set the volume control at no more than 60 percent of the maximum volume4

Is the person next to you enjoying the music you’re listening to on your headphones? That’s an easy indicator that the volume is turned up too loud. 

Don’t turn up the volume to block out noisy surroundings. Choose noise-cancelling headphones that filter outside noise.

Just as it is important to wear two hearing aids, it’s best to wear two earbuds. When you use your headphone on only one side, the sound doesn’t seem as loud and you’re more likely to crank up the volume.

Keep track of time
Limit listening time on headphones and take regular breaks to give your ears a rest. The damage from exposure to noise is cumulative. The louder the noise, the less time it takes for damage to occur. Experts recommend the 60/60 rule: Listen through your headphones for no more than 60 minutes at a time at no more than 60 percent of your device’s maximum volume5

Protect your ears
A ticket to a concert or sporting event may be costly, but protecting your hearing is a fraction of the price. A pair of inexpensive foam earplugs or earmuffs can prevent exposure to excessive noise. Ear plugs go into your ears, so they block the canal. Earmuffs fit completely over both ears. 
Use your smartphone to help you keep track of decibel levels. Download a volume monitor app and use it when in doubt of noise levels. 
Caught unaware as a siren or loud explosion occurs? In an emergency, cover your ears with your hands to block the sound.

You can set a good example for your family by beginning to practice simple, good listening behaviors at home. Lower the TV volume, turn down the radio and take other steps to keep excessive noise to a minimum in your home. Make family dinners a time for easy conversation, without the background noise of music or kitchen appliances. Bring ear protection along on family outings to sporting events, concerts and movie theaters where sound can be especially loud. Buy quieter appliances, especially frequent-use items like hair dryers, and insist all family members use hearing protection when mowing the lawn or using power tools.

A regular hearing checkup is an easy and simple yet important step to take to protect your family’s hearing health. Schedule hearing evaluations as part of annual health check-ups. If your child is having trouble hearing the TV at a reasonable volume, frequently misses conversation, or complains of ringing or buzzing in the ears, find a local audiologist so that your child can have his/her hearing tested. To schedule a free hearing test at your local participating clinic, please click here


3. Pediatrics 2005;115:861–867; noise-induced hearing loss.