Written by Dr. Jenell Douglas
As the weather warms up and summer begins, we can anticipate more opportunities to enjoy live music at concerts or musical festivals. It is becoming increasingly common to see young children at large music and sporting events. When we prepare for a music festival, we may apply sunscreen to protect our skin from UV rays or pick out a pair of sunglasses to protect our eyes, but what should we be using to protect our ears and hearing? Should one bring a toddler or young child to a concert or festival?
The answer to this question will be an individual decision for each family. Here are some factors to consider before introducing your child to the world of live music:
- Listening time and proximity (how close you are) to the sound. Concerts can be very loud, measuring 90-100 decibels for outside stages, 95-110 decibels for indoor stages. For comparison, electric drills, lawn mowers, and motorcycles have similar loudness levels. Our ears are more likely to experience damage if we are standing very close to the speakers or listening for long periods of time. If bringing children, put some distance between your family and the stage, refrain from sitting right up front. We can also give our ears a break by stepping away from time to time throughout the event.
- What can we do to protect young sensitive ears? Hearing protective devices should be comfortable and provide consistent protection. Circum-aural noise cancelling earmuffs are worn over the ear, and the cushion around the ear creates a seal that dampens the noise level. Many circum-aural earmuffs designed for children have a soft headband to ensure they stay in place on children who are active. If you and your family are frequent flyers at sporting events or live music concerts, consider custom earplugs which are molded to fit your ears and have filters to lower the decibel level, without filtering out too much of the voices and noises around us. (insert cute photo of child with earmuffs)
- How will your child tolerate loud sounds? It is important to consider how your child reacts to loud sounds. Hyperacusis is a condition characterized by high sensitivity to sounds, or low tolerance to sounds that others feel are not too loud. A person experiencing hyperacusis may have an emotional reaction ranging from mildly upset to very upset. Symptoms of hyperacusis in children may be crying, covering ears, moving away from the sound source, or acting erratically in response to a sound they consider uncomfortable. If your child is sensitive to loud sounds, you may want to think twice before bringing them to a concert, as loud music could further trigger an emotional response.
Why is it important to protect our hearing around loud sounds?
Our organ of hearing (cochlea) located in the inner ear contains thousands of tiny nerve cells called “hair cells.” Hair cells pick up the vibrations from sounds in our environment. Sounds at very loud intensities (volumes) will create a vibration strong enough to push the hair cells down, which can temporarily reduce hearing or cause distortion. Over time, repeated exposures can accumulate and cause a permanent reduction in hearing in patients of any age. Protecting our hearing by reducing the decibel level that reaches our ears is the best way to prevent noise-induced hearing changes.
Ultimately, the decision to bring children to a live music event will be yours to make for your family, but it is important to be conscious of how much sound we are exposing young ears to. The use of hearing protection is strongly recommended. Learn more about evaluating & protecting the hearing health of your child–including the convenient, customizable options available to them, like earplugs custom-molded to their ear shape–by booking time with one of Advanced Specialty Care’s Doctors of Audiology. Call us today or request your appointment online.
ADVANCED SPECIALTY CARE
At Advanced Specialty Care, our Clinical Audiologists do more than ensure you hear well – we focus on your total hearing health. Our affiliation with ASC’s Ear, Nose & Throat specialists ensures a comprehensive approach to healthy hearing. We offer state-of-the-art instrument technology and qualified professionals.