The irreversible damage from repeated exposure to high-volume noise is something every adult knows about, but it’s something we should be educating children about as well. Teaching kids the importance of hearing preservation and instructing them on healthy hearing habits is a wonderful preventative measure.
Since noise-induced hearing loss occurs gradually, it’s extremely important that parents begin protecting their children’s hearing at an early age (read this article about infant sleep machines and their effect on hearing). A great first step is to take a look at your children’s toys, particularly those aimed at toddlers. Toys are required to meet the acoustic standard as set by the American Society of Testing and Materials, which states that no toys exceed an 85 decibel (dB) level at 50 cm from a toy’s surface. The dilemma lies in the fact that 50 cm is longer than the length of an adult’s arm, and much longer than that of a child’s. The average length of a toddler’s arm is 25cm. This shorter arm span is what makes noisy toys so dangerous to a child’s hearing.
Therefore, when choosing toys, it’s critical that parents find out how much sound a toy produces, or find toys that create no noise. Parents can also check current toys for loudness and find ways to reduce it, such as setting it on the lowest volume level or muting it. Other possible measures include:
Mats and rugs are a great sound buffers and should be laid on popular playing areas. Avoid storing toys in hardwood or plastic bins, as this creates a lot of noise when kids ransack them. Instead, opt for baskets or fabric bags. Be conscious of noise when buying toys. If it’s too loud for your ears it will be too loud for your child’s.
The sooner you introduce healthy hearing habits to your kids, the better protected they will be. By practicing these precautions you are ensuring hearing longevity and bringing awareness so that they may make healthful choices when it comes to their hearing.