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by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist, Member, The Quiet Coalition

I was horrified to read this article in Romper Toddler entitled, “Here’s when you should be concerned about your child’s fear of sound.” If parents follow the loud suggestions, they could cause permanent noise damage to their toddler’s hearing and make sound sensitivity worse.

But maybe we should start paying more attention to toddlers. After all, many of the “safe” sounds mentioned in this article can cause harmful noise doses, including balloons popping, vacuums, trains, and personal listening with headphones.

Balloons popping are as loud as gunfire. Home appliances and transit or transportation sources cause preventable noise pollution, with toddlers at greater risk of auditory damage. Early noise-induced hearing problems have devastating consequences for speech communication, school progress, and quality of life.

Personal listening is high-risk for noise-induced auditory damage, especially in children and teens with immature hearing systems. Don’t introduce toddlers to listening with headphones. As an audiologist parent, I made my kids wait until they were in school before I let them start using headphones or earbuds with their iPod, phone, tablet, or computer.

We need to stop teaching little ones that harmful noise is “normal.” Instead, we should be protecting children from acoustic trauma, environmental noise pollution, and harmfully amplified sound. Unsafe sounds need noise control. For example:

  • Don’t teach toddlers to laugh and smile at unsafe loud sounds.
  • Never “treat” sound sensitivity by using loud or painful sounds on purpose.
  • Boycott balloons for decorations, gifts, or entertainment.
  • Restrict or avoid introducing personal listening during childhood.
  • Demand child-protective noise emission limits for manufacturers of harmful sources including appliances, power tools, gardening equipment, public transit, and personal audio systems.

Many online sources fail on facts when it comes to protecting a child’s hearing health, especially if they have sound sensitivity. Talk to an audiologist, ENT, or hearing healthcare professional with expertise in decreased sound tolerance. Helpful online resources include the American Tinnitus Association, Hyperacusis Research, and Hyperacusis Awareness.