Personal Device Use & Children – Hearing Loss Prevention

The days of the Walkman and portable CD players are long gone. Firmly taking their place are tablets, portable gaming devices, and smartphones. With the ease at which children access their parents’ devices, or even have devices of their own, the concern over possible noise-induced hearing loss as a result of the use of these devices has been growing.

Juvenile Hearing Loss Research

JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery published a study recently that found noise-related hearing loss was evident in those children who listen to music through headphones. Since many portable electronic devices are hooked up to headphones for children to use in public places without disturbing others, concern that these devices could be causing hearing loss is well supported by this research.

In the study 3,000 children, ages 9 to 11 were given hearing tests — the results of which were examined by Dutch researchers. The children’s parents were asked to provide feedback regarding hearing complaints from their children, the frequency at which children used these devices, and typical volume settings the children used when playing on these devices.

The researchers found that children who used portable music players at a minimum of once or twice a week were twice as likely to suffer noise-induced hearing loss than children who never played with these devices. 14% of the children in the study had difficulty hearing high-frequency sounds. (40% of the children who participated in the study had never used portable music players, and 19% had used them once or twice a week. 8% used them three times a week or more.)

This statistic is alarming given that the majority of older children and teens who regularly use a portable device, whether that be a portable music player, a smartphone, or a tablet.

Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss In Your Child

The use of tablets and smartphones are pervasive in our communities, especially given all of the technological benefits they provide. While we can all limit the amount of time our children spend on these devices, there are other steps we can take to limit the risk of exposure to noise-induced hearing loss as a result of these tablets.

Avoid Headphones

When possible, have your children use these devices without headphones. This way you can monitor the volume of the device and turn it down when levels are too high. It can be annoying to listen to at first, but this step can go a long way in preserving your child’s hearing.

Monitor The Volume

For those times when headphones are a necessity, set up your child with the headphones first at the proper volume instead of relying on him or her to do it for themselves. Ask them if the volume is comfortable, and tell them if they need it higher they should ask you first. Check your child’s headphones from time to time while they are in use to make sure the volume level is acceptable.

Discuss Hearing Loss With Your Child

The best way to prevent hearing loss at a young age is to educate your children about the danger of noise-induced hearing loss. The more they know about how their ears function and the damage that high volume can produce will help them make wise choices about their own volume level.

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