Infants rely on their parents and guardians to protect them from harm. However, we sometimes neglect to recognize just which things can put them in danger. One of these things is noise.
Even before birth, babies are constantly subjected to an unhealthy level of noise that can significantly affect their health, growth and development.
Do Babies Have More Sensitive Hearing?
Babies are very sensitive to noise since they have smaller ear canals and thinner skulls compared to adults. These make them highly susceptible to both prolonged and sudden loud noises.
How Sensitive Are Babies’ Ears?
Sounds measuring more than 85 decibels (dB) can cause harm even to the ears of a normal adult. To give you an idea, a sports crowd or a rock concert can reach noise levels of 130dB while a chainsaw can go up to 115dB. Lawn mower can produce 89dB and a vacuum cleaner can reach 75dB.
A good rule of the thumb to follow is to prevent exposing infants to sounds more than 60dB, the noise level of a normal conversation. This means that if you can’t clearly hear another person over a certain sound, then it’s not good for your baby.
Can Loud Music Affect My Baby?
Loud music or intensive noise can drastically affect your baby’s hearing and growth and development. There are two types of exposure – prolonged noise exposure and short-term noise exposure.
Prolonged Noise Exposure
Prolonged exposure to harmful levels of noise can lead to permanent hearing loss for babies since it can permanently damage the hair cells which serve as the ear’s sound receptors. It makes it hard for infants to distinguish speech sounds as well, hampering their capacity to effectively process speech.
Short-Term Noise Exposure
Sudden bursts of loud noise can be just as damaging to your baby as prolonged exposure to noise. Not only can it cause ringing in the ears, it can even lead to permanent hearing disabilities. Sudden noise outbursts can also startle and stress your baby. Stress in babies can lead to behavior problems once they grow older and hamper their brain growth.
Is Loud Music Bad for Babies in the Womb?
Another thing that parents need to remember is that fetuses can hear and process sounds as early as 24 weeks. This means that you need to avoid exposing your unborn child from loud noises as well. While the walls of the uterus and the amniotic fluid can somewhat muffle the sounds that reach the fetus, a little precaution never hurt anyone.
Exposure to loud noise in utero can lead to hearing problems. It can also cause your child to be born prematurely or with a weight that is lower than normal. So, while you’re pregnant, refrain from going to rock concerts and let your husband take charge of the lawnmower.
What Do You Need to Watch Out For?
It is your job as a parent to ensure that your baby isn’t exposed to loud noises. As a matter of fact, some of the things that you need to be wary of are even intended for infant use.
Are All Toys Safe for Babies?
Innocent as they might seem, you’ll be surprised to know that some of the toys made for babies can cause some harm to their ears.
Battery-powered toys that make noise can sometimes expose your child to up to 120dB of noise. That’s way too loud!
There are also some toys that require winding or cranking that can make just as much noise. The same goes for drums, whistles and rattles. While they might not seem too loud to you when you test them, you need to remember that babies will sometimes place their toys close to their ears.
How About Crowded Places?
Be it a football game or the subway, you wouldn’t want to bring your baby to one. A football game held in a stadium can easily reach noise levels of 117dB. Crowded places, in general, are too noisy for your baby’s ears.
Can the TV or Radio Cause Harm to Infants?
If you can’t watch your favorite team’s game live, does it mean that you can watch it on TV or listen to it on the radio? Sure, you can. However, most of us are guilty of turning up the volume once we get too absorbed with the game.
Are Fireworks Safe for Babies’ Ears?
Fireworks can inflict noise levels of up to 175dB. Even adults can experience hearing problems when subjected to such extreme levels of noise. While the distance from the fireworks can also affect the amount of noise level that babies hear, it still isn’t advisable to expose your baby to such intensive noise.
Preventing Hearing Damage
Now that we know just what things can be harmful to your baby’s hearing, let’s talk about what steps you can take for prevention.
- Any toy that makes sounds you need to test for yourself first. Remember that babies sometimes hold their toys close to their face as part of their instinct to learn. Most of the time, removing the batteries from the toy is enough to do the trick.
- Refrain from turning up the volume of your television and radio to harmful levels if your baby is in the same room as you.
- Prevent bringing your baby to crowded places where you know for sure that there’ll be loud noise.
Best Hearing Protection for Babies
There are different types of products that you can use to protect your baby’s hearing. Several factors that you need to consider when choosing one include the noise reduction rate, comfort, style, material, and adjustability.
You can choose from the different earmuffs and noise-cancelling headphones that are available in the market today. There are also infant-friendly earplugs which are typically made of silicone for better fit and comfort.