All Ears

Teach little listeners to turn down the volume when they tune in.

With the skyrocketing use of smart mobile devices among children, it is critical for parents to instill safe listening habits early in their lives. Early intervention can prevent the long-term, irreversible hearing damage that can result from unsafe use of devices with earbuds and headphones. According to Common Sense Media's 2013 study on mobile media use, 75 percent of kids ages 8 and younger have access to a smart mobile device at home, a statistic that's increased from 52 percent in 2011. Almost 40 percent of children younger than 2 have used a mobile device, an increase of 10 percent as compared to two years ago.

Many children listen to music, watch television shows, and play games on cell phones, tablets, and gaming devices at dangerously high volumes. This could lead to them paying an unfortunate price in the form of noise-induced hearing loss. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) urges parents to help protect their kids with a few simple, safe listening tips:

  • Keep the volume down. A good guide is to use half the available volume.
  • Limit listening time. Everyone's ears benefit from a break.
  • Model good listening habits. Practice what you preach for your kids' sake and your own.

"Mobile technology use is pervasive in today's society, and it is becoming ingrained in children at younger and younger ages," says Patricia A. Prelock, Ph.D., ASHA's 2013 president. She adds, "Parents have a tremendous opportunity to start children off right by establishing safe listening behaviors early."

Hearing loss in young people is on the rise. A 2010 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association showed one in five children between ages 12 and 19 is suffering from hearing loss. This number presents an increase of 31 percent since the late 1980s/early 1990s. Hearing loss can affect academic achievement, vocational choice, and social functioning. Those who experience hearing loss may feel isolated or unhappy in school. Hearing is critical to a child's development, and the earlier hearing loss occurs, the more serious is the effect on speech and language development, communication, and learning.

Identify the Signs of Childhood Hearing Loss

It is essential that, in addition to teaching preventative habits, parents learn the early signs of hearing loss so they can seek help if needed. The earlier hearing loss is identified and intervention begins, the better the outcome. Early warning signs include:

  • Lack of attention to sounds.
  • Failure to follow simple directions.
  • Delays in speech and language development.
  • Difficulty with academic achievements, especially in reading and math.
  • Persistent ear discomfort after exposure to loud noise.

More signs and treatment options are available at www.identifythesigns.org.