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Photo credit: Tim Parkinson licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I’m an internist and was board-certified in geriatric medicine so I’m not sure I’m qualified to write anything about children, but I think being a new grandpa grants me that authority. One thing I have learned is that children’s ears are delicate, and they need to last a lifetime, so it’s important to protect children from loud noise.

At last year’s Super Bowl victory, the world saw Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles carrying his infant daughter wearing her cute pink ear muff hearing protection.  Smart move. The Quiet Coalition doesn’t endorse products, but there are now many ear muff hearing protection devices available for infants, toddlers, and young children.

I suggest that parents and grandparents look for products with a noise reduction rating of 22 decibels or greater. The NRR is measured according to standards developed by the EPA, but the actual reduction in noise reaching the ear drum is less than the rated noise reduction. Just remember that the higher the NRR, the greater the hearing protection.

And start using ear protection early. If children get used to ear muffs for noise when they are infants, they are likely to develop lifelong habits of protecting themselves from environmental noise exposures.

Should you allow your child to use headphones to listen to music? I think these are a bad idea. First, parents can’t monitor either content or sound volume. Second, even with volume limits, headphone use is likely to cause auditory damage. That was the finding of a Dutch study that showed auditory problems in children age 9-11 after headphone use. Third, and perhaps most importantly, it’s far better to interact with one’s child or grandchild than to use audio or audiovisual content as a babysitter. Read the kid a book!