Photo credit: Torsten Reimer licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Queen Elizabeth recently celebrated 70 years as England’s monarch with four days of celebrations in London. The image from those events that might have gotten the most attention was of her great-grandson, four year old Prince Louis of Cambridge, covering his ears during a celebratory flyover by Royal Air Force jets.

Low flying jets are noisy and children naturally cover their ears. That actually doesn’t do much to reduce the sound level, but sticking the tips of their index fingers into the external auditory canal blocks sound pretty well.

Aircraft noise usually isn’t loud enough to damage hearing, but there are anecdotal reports of young people developing tinnitus, i.e., ringing in the ears, or hyperacusis, i.e., a sensitivity to noise that doesn’t bother others, after attending air shows.

Hearing loss isn’t part of normal aging but largely represents noise-induced hearing loss.

Unless they are born with congenital hearing problems, have disease such as measles or meningitis that can affect hearing, or suffer repeated middle ear infections, children almost always have better hearing than adults. That’s because they haven’t yet been exposed to a lifetime of loud noise.

Parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents should protect their little darlings from the dangers of loud noise, because a child’s delicate ears need to last a whole lifetime.