Photo credit: Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The New York Times Wircutter finally has accurate information about protecting children’s hearing.

This is great news.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find good information about protecting hearing, for adults and for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics still fails to provide parents and grandparents with good information about the dangers of noise for children’s hearing, despite my having communicated with their leadership and staff since 2015.

The Federal Trade Commission still allows headphones with an 85 decibel (dB) volume limit to be advertised as safe for children’s hearing, without any time limit for use, even though the World Health Organization recommends only 1 hour at 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA) to prevent hearing loss. I also first communicated with the FTC about this in 2015. (A-weighting adjusts sound measurements for the frequencies heard in human speech. There is no ready conversion factor from dB to dBA or back, but in my experience most dBA measurements are 5-7 dB lower than unweighted dB measurements.)

As Lauren Dragan writes for Wirecutter, quoting audiologist Brian Fligor, PhD, 70 dB average for a day is a safe noise level, but any noises much louder than that can cause auditory damage. The cumulative impact of noise on the ear is like that of sun on the skin. Eventually, noise causes auditory damage, just as sun exposure damages the skin.

Parents and grandparents should take steps to protect their children’s and grandchildren’s hearing, including limiting noise exposure, restricting headphone use, and using parental controls to set volume limits and monitor noise exposure.