Photo credit: IXQUICK licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This health column from the University of Kentucky communications office discusses protecting children’s hearing. They chose this topic because May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, sponsored by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

The advice is not new but is sound. And I congratulate the University of Kentucky for not citing the industrial-strength 85 decibel (dB) level as safe for children’s hearing. The oft-cited 85 dB noise level is derived from the 85 dBA (A-weighted decibels) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Recommended Exposure Level for occupational noise. It’s not safe for adults, and it’s certainly not safe for children’s shorter external auditory canals and developing auditory systems.

The NIOSH 85 dBA level allows an 8% risk of excess hearing loss in exposed workers. A noise exposure level that doesn’t protect factory workers, miners, and heavy equipment operators from hearing loss is far too high for a child’s delicate ears, which have to last a lifetime.

The best advice for protecting your children’s hearing? It’s simple: avoid loud noise exposure.

This means no use of headphones or earbuds, at least as long as that prohibition is viable, and turning down the sound volume at parties and sports events.

Because if something sounds too loud, it is too loud, and your child’s hearing is at risk.