How Loud Is Too Loud?
by Diane S. Kendall, 12/08/11

In an online survey, Califone, a company that makes head phones primarily for school use, asked teachers if they agree with this statement: "since younger students haven't yet learned what too loud is when using personal audio equipment, technology should help prevent student hearing loss." Eighty-four percent of respondents either answered "Strongly Agree" (58%) or "Somewhat Agree" (26%) making it clear that teachers believe young students don't realize that loud sounds can damage their hearing and that audio equipment that can control volume is important.

But what can be done about it at home? Young children, used to loud soundtracks at movie theaters, on home televisions and video games and on digital devices used by older children, think that's the way sound should be. Here are a few ways to protect your children's hearing and your own.

1. Educate yourself on Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Find out how loud is too loud as well as how long is too long?

2. Keep the volume down. Set your television, video games, and music to the lowest volume at which they can be heard clearly. If someone in the room has trouble hearing, consider turning on your television captioning rather than turning up the volume.

3. When you can hear the music your kids are listening to especially when they have headphones on, you know it's too loud. Look for headphones where kids have control over the loudness, but the volume never rises to a level that hurts kids' hearing. Ultimate Ears Loud Enough Earphones is one good example of this kind of headphones for tweens and teens. Headphones by dbLogic, who advertise they are headphones so you can "hear now and later," are another with items for younger children as well.

4. Limit listening time. Give your hearing "quiet breaks."

5. Model good listening habits for your children. We all like to turn the volume up on occasion, but keep it within reason and ask teens to do the same.

6. Buy quiet toys. If you buy electronic toys, choose those with volume controls, and use only the lowest volume setting. This will both lower your household noise levels and help protect your child from NIHL

7. Califone, which markets volume-restricting devices, is working with ASHA (American Speech Language Hearing Association) on the Listen to Your Buds safe sound campaign. Parents can also take part in this campaign and have their kids take the pledge to save their hearing. (This is also a campaign the administrators at your children's school should know about so pass the word along.)

8. If you have a child who may have a hearing, speech, or language problem, have the child evaluated by an ASHA-certified audiologist or speech-language pathologist. To find an audiologist or speech-language pathologist in your area, use ASHA's online ProSearch or call 800-638-TALK (8255).