Type of hearing loss
The most common type of hearing loss among children is called sensorineural which occurs due to damage of the inner ear. The damage can be caused by an infection, injury or most commonly, through exposure to loud noise. This type of damage cannot be repaired.
While sensorineural hearing loss does not permanently improve, it also does not get any worse. It involves a lowering in the ability to hear soft sounds, to hear clearly and can affect how well you understand speech. Typically, this type of hearing loss can be improved through the use of a hearing aid. Other types of hearing loss are conductive and mixed. Conductive hearing loss is when sounds are not conducted to the inner ear properly and can often be corrected with surgery. Mixed hearing loss involves both sensorineural and conductive. A hearing professional can assess the type and degree of hearing loss your child has.
What causes hearing loss in children
Most types of hearing loss is not genetic but is noise-induced, brought on through outside noise that is too loud. There are noises that you have no control over and then there are noises that you create yourself.
Loud music, particularly music played directly into the ear via earbuds, is one way that kids are getting exposed to noise that can damage the ears. A recent study in Australia found that children as young as three have shown signs of permanent hearing loss due to listening to loud music. Do you know that listening to music that is too loud for more than 5 to 10 minutes can produce hearing damage? Shocking but true.
Another similar cause of hearing loss is playing musical instruments too loudly. It is found that playing and practicing in a school band or orchestra can actually cause hearing loss. This is true when the music is practiced in an enclosed area. The National Association for Music Education (MENC) even issued a statement that educators need to recognize music as a cause of noise-induced hearing loss.
What can be done
The most important thing you can do as a parent is to become aware of the hazards of noise-induced hearing loss. Familiarize yourself with the causes of hearing loss and teach your children to take preventative measures.
First, try to ensure that you enforce strict volume guidelines on things such as iPod and other listening devices. Listen to the device yourself to determine what you feel are safe volume levels.
Get your children to use earplugs. Just like the helmet helps keep a child safe and protected when riding a bicycle, earplugs can help keep ears safe from loud noises. Ensure that your child wears the earplugs when practicing in the band or even when mowing the lawn.
The lesson here is to be forewarned. Use precautions and common sense to set limits for children. Teach them the importance of taking care of their hearing and help them understand when noise levels are too loud.