Caring for Your Children Hearing

May 9, 2018









Children and teenagers aren’t necessarily more sensitive to noise than adults, but unless they’ve been told, they may not be aware that loud sounds can permanently damage their hearing.

Aggressive, sustained or piercing noises are the most disruptive and harmful. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends avoiding exposure to sounds over 75 decibels (dB) for longer than 8 hours.1

Hazardous Sources of Sound for Children

For children, loud noises can come from something as simple as a toy. In Canada, toys must follow a law stating that toys may not be louder than 100 dB, as measured within 5 metres.2 However, when held close to the ear, these toys can produce sounds in the 110–135 dB range. Just 2 minutes of exposure to sound levels of 100 dB or more from a toy held close to a child’s ear can permanently damage their hearing.

There are plenty of apps available to test toys by measuring their sound in decibels. Try searching for keywords such as “sound meter”. These apps aren’t particularly accurate, but they can give you a good idea of the noise intensity levels your child may be experiencing. Despite these warnings, don’t jump to the conclusion that children need to be protected from all sounds; it’s important to stimulate their hearing with soft music or your own voice. However, try to stay away from loud environments when you’re with your kids and avoid extended exposure to loud noises if possible. We also recommend using earmuffs to protect your child’s hearing. Better safe than sorry!

Hazardous Sources of Sound for Teens

In teenagers, listening to music with earbuds for extended periods of time can permanently harm their hearing and possibly lead to tinnitus. Earbuds are the most harmful type of headphone because they create a near-total seal and send music directly towards the eardrum. This can make a mid-volume sound have a much stronger effect in reality. Additionally, people tend to turn up the volume more often with this type of headphone to drown out ambient noise.

If you regularly use earbuds that sit inside your auditory canal, we suggest using custom earmolds (A) that are tailored to fit your ear perfectly. These earmolds block outside noises and help direct sound towards your eardrum, so you don’t have to turn your volume up too loud. The recommended time limit for listening with headphones at 105 dB (high volume) is 4 minutes. A concert can easily reach 115 dB; at this level, it takes less than a minute3—28 seconds—to damage hearing. At concerts, you should try to stay away from the speakers if possible and wear hearing protectors (B) to reduce the volume and enjoy the experience. Other recommendations include reducing the maximum volume and listening time on portable devices, swapping earbuds for on- or over-the-ear headphones, and protecting your ears with earplugs or earmuffs when in noisy environments.

Make sure your children and teenagers are aware of the dangers of loud noises!

Roxanne Gravel-Bélair
Audioprosthetist practicing at the Saint-Jérôme Lobe clinic

1. Réglementation sur le bruit. Online. Consulted on June 2017.
2. Naître et grandir. Les jouets sonores. Online. Consulted on June 2017.
3. Noise-induced hearing loss in children: A ‘less than silent’ environmental danger. Consulted on June 2017.