Hearing loss is common in the UK, perhaps more common than many people think. Action on Hearing Loss (formerly The Royal National Institute for Deaf People – RNID), a charitable organization working on behalf of those suffering from hearing loss, reports an estimated 9 million people in the UK living with some form of hearing loss.
Hearing loss can occur at any age, due to various causes. A common type of hearing loss is referred to as noise induced hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is quite preventable, though it requires discipline and education. While at the workplace, regulations are in place to make employers aware of the impact of loud sounds, but at home parents and carers need to enforce practices to prevent hearing loss.
The Human Hearing System Simplified
There are three main areas of the human hearing system. These are the outer ear that can be seen which includes the earcanal; the middle ear and the inner ear where sound is processed and transmitted to the auditory cortex in the brain for interpretation. Delicate hair cells are found with the inner ear, which can be damaged by prolonged exposure to noise of very high intensities. Factors which are important to bear in mind when it comes to noise exposure are: proximity of the person is to the noise source, how long the exposure lasted for and how loud it is/was.
How Can Parents Help Reduce Noise Induce Hearing Loss
1. Lead by example – children will often copy the acts of their parents, so leading by example means demonstrating that you understand the risks of hearing loss and doing your best to prevent those. For example, loud events which exceed 85dB(A) include driving on the motorway with the windows open instead of with the windows closed. Prolong exposure to this type of event may lead to hearing loss.
2. Encourage the use of hearing protection – you might think that only rock concerts are dangerous for children, but other activities have a decibel level very similar and can cause hearing loss. Wearing hearing protection such as ear plugs and muffs will help reduce this type of hearing loss. A typical example were hearing protection is needed, is when a home lawn mower is used which has a decibel level of 100dB(A).
3. Use special headphones – MP3 players are popular with children and while we all love hearing music loudly, some children will increase the volume of their MP3 to a level which can put their hearing in harms’ way. Special headphones for children have been created which keep the volume levels down to a safe level.
4. Prevent exposure – there are a number of loud events which can cause a noise induced hearing loss often referred to as a ‘blast event’. These can to the eardrum. Try to explaining the hazard to the child. For example, a firecracker, experienced at close range.
If you suspect that your child’s hearing might be impaired, visit your GP for a hearing test. The GP may refer you to an audiologist for quick and painless test procedures.
This article was contributed by hearingdirect.com which offers a wide range of hearing aids types and an online hearing test. For more information on hearing, read our guide to hearing loss.