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How Portable Devices May Be Damaging Kids’ Hearing

Summer vacation and travel seem to go hand in hand! With the kids out of school and Moms’ and Dads’ vacation days saved up, many families are hitting the road (and air) to see new sights. Chances are those travel plans also include portable electronic devices to keep the kids happy along the way. While there is value to be found in these devices, hearing experts are warning that they may also pose a risk to kids’ hearing health.

Here’s what you need to know to enjoy travel without setting kids up for hearing loss in the future.

What portable devices may be doing to hearing health

Today’s kids have never known a world without technology and are savvy enough to take full advantage of it. They have tablets and phones and always seem to have a pair of earbuds at the ready to listen to their favorite music or YouTuber.

According to a recent study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, this could put them at higher risk of developing noise-related hearing loss.

The study, focused on portable music players and conducted in the Netherlands, looked at hearing evaluations from 3116 children between the ages of 9 and 11. Researchers also interviewed the children’s parents about hearing complaints, the frequency of use of all portable music players including smartphones and tablets, and typical volume.

Researchers found that 14.2% of these school-aged children showed hearing impairment. That percentage only seems to grow through their teenage years, too.

“Although we cannot conclude from this study that music players caused these hearing losses, it shows that music exposure might influence hearing at a young age,” said lead study author Dr. Carlijn le Clercq of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam. “This is important, because hearing loss is irreversible and thus has lifelong consequences.”

How to help prevent hearing damage in kids

While more controlled studies are needed to support these recent findings, there’s no denying that our children’s hearing health is now more important than ever to protect. With the noisiness of life continuing to grow and portable devices a fixture in their life, taking steps like these to help prevent noise-induced hearing loss is a must for every parent:

  • Skip the headphones whenever possible – encourage kids to listen to their favorite shows, music or games without the headphones. When headphones are a must, such as on airplanes, make sure kids have noise-canceling headphones that help minimize background noise allowing for a lower volume. If your summer plans include a road trip, go old school by setting aside the electronic devices and taking turns choosing music that everyone can listen to.
  • Set limits for screen and listening time – Set consistent limits, even on vacation, for electronic devices to help manage how much noise your child’s hearing is being subjected to.
  • Check the volume – Don’t be afraid to check the volume on your child’s device and to set volume limits to keep decibel levels within a safe range.
  • Set an example – There’s no getting around that children do what we do. Protect your own hearing and show the kids in your life how it’s done by following these recommendations to protect your hearing health.

Hearing loss currently affects tens of millions of Americans, and experts worry that with the growing use of technology and findings such as these, that number could skyrocket in the years to come.

Protect your hearing health and that of your kids’ by taking steps to minimize noise, wherever your travel plans take you this summer.

If your child has signs of hearing impairment contact our office today to schedule a hearing evaluation.


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