What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)?
NIHL occurs when exposed to loud sounds. It can occur from exposure to a very loud sound for a short period of time (like an explosion) or a loud sound over a long period of time (like using a lawnmower all day). Without getting too deep into the science of hearing, most NIHL is caused by damage to hair cells in our hearing systems. Once these hair cells are damaged, they are gone for good. They don’t grow back. NIHL is often gradual. You may slowly lose your ability to hear and you don’t notice until there is a drastic difference. Once the damage is done, there is no treatment to bring your hearing back. The way to treat permanent hearing loss is through the use of amplification such as hearing aids.
This graphic from Let’s Talk Science shows some familiar sounds and their loudness levels. According to NIH, prolonged exposure to sounds at or below 70dB is unlikely to cause hearing loss. Hearing loss can result from long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 dB.
As you can see, fireworks are at the top of the loudness scale! Even if you are not close enough to the fireworks to experience this level of loudness, it is a good opportunity to teach your children about protecting themselves from loud sounds.
Here are some things you can do to protect your hearing:
- Be aware of sounds in your environment
- Turn down the volume if possible
- Wear earplugs or earmuffs to protect your hearing
- Remember to protect the little ears of your children – we have these for my daughter
- Move away from loud noises if you do not have ear protection
For younger children, always provide hearing protection and wear it yourself as well! If you have children, you know that they are always watching you. It is so important to model good habits. Your child will be so much more likely to wear earplugs if they see the adults they look up to wearing earplugs.
For older children, you can involve them in the conversation and process of picking out hearing protection. Here are some tips from Noisy Planet for involving your children in the process:
Set the expectation. Talk about hearing protection as if it were the same as wearing sunscreen or your seatbelt. Tell your child when they should be wearing hearing protection such as band practice or using a lawnmower.
Let them shop for their own hearing protection! If they feel more control over the situation, they may be more likely to use them consistently. Would they prefer discreet earplugs? Or maybe a fun pair of earmuffs in their favorite color? Or even let them decorate with stickers!
Make sure their earplugs or earmuffs are in an accessible spot. If they use them for band practice, keep them in their instrument case. Keep them out and visible!