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Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Children

What is noise-induced hearing loss in children?

Your child’s inner ears may be damaged if he or she is around extremely loud noises, or around loud noises for long periods of time. This is called noise-induced hearing loss.

One way of describing noise is by decibels.

  • Normal conversation is often about 60 decibels. 

  • Regularly being around noise that is more than 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.

Which noises can affect hearing?

Level of safety

Decibels (Approximate)

Type of noise

Permanent hearing loss may happen

140-150

Fireworks within 3 feet, guns, jet engine

 

 

120-130

Jet plane, siren, jackhammer

 

 

110

Music from smartphones or personal music players set at loudest level, chain saw, radio-controlled airplane

Gradual hearing loss may happen over time

90

Subway, motorcycle

Safe 

80-90

Kitchen appliances

 

 

60

Normal conversation

 

 

30

Whispering

What causes noise-induced hearing loss in a child?

Loud noises can damage the hair cells in the inner ear and the hearing nerve. This is called sensorineural hearing loss or nerve deafness. Sensorineural hearing loss also has many other causes.

Hearing loss from loud noises may happen right away or slowly over a period of years. It may be lifelong (permanent) or short-term (temporary).

Which children are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss?

Your child may be around loud noise anywhere. Examples of noises that can cause hearing loss include:

  • Loud appliances such as hair dryers, food processors, or blenders

  • Traffic or subway noise

  • Power tools or equipment such as leaf blowers and lawn mowers

  • Concerts, sporting events, or movie theaters

  • Snowmobiles, go-carts, or radio-controlled airplanes

  • Music from smartphones and personal listening devices, with the volume turned up too high

What are the symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss in a child?

Having trouble hearing is the main symptom of noise-induced hearing loss. Your child may have the following:

  • Trouble hearing soft or faint sounds

  • Normal conversation may sound muffled or unclear

  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus)

How is noise-induced hearing loss diagnosed in a child?

Your child’s healthcare provider will ask questions about your child’s hearing. He or she will examine your child, paying close attention to the ears. Your child may be referred to a specialist for hearing testing.

Comprehensive hearing testing is often done by an audiologist or an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT or otolaryngologist).

How is noise-induced hearing loss treated in a child?

Once the hearing nerve is damaged, it is permanent. Treatment may include:

  • Hearing aids. They may be used to help your child hear better.

  • Cochlear implants. They are devices that work damaged parts of the inner ear. The implants are only advised for some children. For example, a child with little or no benefit from hearing aids after 6 months of use.

  • Hearing protection. To protect your child from further hearing loss, keep them away from loud noise. Your child should also use ear plugs or muffs when loud noise can't be prevented.

What are possible complications of noise-induced hearing loss in a child?

Permanent hearing loss is the most serious complication of noise-induced hearing loss. Regularly being around loud noise can also cause:

  • High blood pressure

  • Increased heart rate

  • Upset stomach

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Grouchiness and increased tiredness

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears

What can I do to prevent noise-induced hearing loss in my child?

You and your children should use earplugs or muffs when you know you will be around loud noise. Earplugs fit into the outer ear. Earmuffs fit over the entire outside of the ear. Both help prevent hearing loss. Other things to do include:

  • Protect your child from loud noise

  • Be aware of noises in your environment

  • Know which noises are too loud and can cause damage

  • Get your child's hearing checked if you think there may be hearing loss

How can I help my child live with noise-induced hearing loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent. To protect your child’s hearing from further damage and to help your child manage hearing loss:

  • Try to keep your child away from loud noises.

  • When your child is going to be around loud noises, have them use earplugs or muffs.

  • Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about which medicines may cause further hearing damage.

  • Talk with your child’s provider about activities such as scuba diving that may cause further damage.

  • Talk with your child’s provider about special therapy for speech, language, and hearing.

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

Call your child’s healthcare provider if your child has:

  • Hearing loss symptoms

  • Been around a very loud noise and has symptoms that don’t go away

  • Trouble in school

Key points about noise-induced hearing loss in children

  • Your child’s inner ears may be damaged if he or she is around extremely loud noises, or around loud noises for long periods of time.

  • Noise-induced hearing loss happens slowly and is painless. Once the hearing nerve is destroyed, it is permanent.

  • A hearing test can be done by an audiologist or an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT or otolaryngologist).

  • Permanent hearing loss is the most serious complication of noise-induced hearing loss.

  • Use earplugs or muffs to help prevent hearing loss.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.

  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.

  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.

  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.

  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.

  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.

  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.

  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

Online Medical Reviewer: Ashutosh Kacker MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: John Hanrahan MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2020
© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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