The CDC estimates that as many as 12.5% of children suffer from hearing loss from excessive noise.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a startling statistic. Most of the time, hearing loss is a gradual decline that just sneaks up on us. It often begins in infancy, when baby’s ears are most susceptible to loud noises.
That’s why protecting your baby’s ears from loud noises now is essential.
If you’re reading this article, you probably have a noisy event coming up and you want to make sure that your baby is completely covered. Below we’re going to talk all about infant hearing protection, including how to protect your baby’s hearing in loud noise events and the best baby noise protection to use. Even more important, we’re also going to discuss the startling considerations you need to make during everyday life.
The thing is, while parents realize that some form of noise protection is essential during loud events, it’s the household hazards that can sneak up and affect your baby’s hearing the most. Let’s dive in!
September is Baby Safety Month! Here are some other baby safety and medical posts you might like:
- The Benefits of Skin-to-Skin for Newborns
- How to Find the Perfect Pediatrician
- Our 5 Favorite (and Safest) Infant Car Seats for Under $300
- The Levana Oma Sense Review: How This Baby Movement Monitor + How It Compares to the Competition
Infant Hearing Protection: How to Protect Your Baby’s Ears Against Loud Noises
This post is sponsored by FridayBaby. It may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links I will make a small commission at no charge to you. Blunders in Babyland does not diagnose, treat, or give out any professional advice for any medical conditions.
Infant Hearing Loss from Excessive Noise
Our babies are much more sensitive to noise than we are. The problem lies their physiology. Their ear canals are much smaller than ours, so sound creates greater pressure. When a baby’s ears are subjected to the constant pressure of loud noises, his hair cells (responsible for carrying noise vibrations) can die over time.
Loud noises can also permanently damage the nerves that carries sound to his brain.
How Loud is Too Loud?
First of all, what is uncomfortable for you is doubly so for your baby.
Normal conversations measure at about 60 decibels. Generally, experts recommend limiting your baby’s noise exposure to under 70 decibels. 80 decibels is okay for short periods, but it can be harmful to your baby if he’s exposed continuously.
In fact, some experts think that anything over 85 decibels can cause damage after just 15 minutes.
Before we dive into infant hearing protection, let’s check out some real-world applications.
Here are the most common excessive noises your baby is exposed to:
- Fireworks (150 decibels within 3 feet)
- Parades (Sirens, horns, etc 130 decibels)
- Concerts ( Approx. 110 decibels)
- Airplane (Up to 105 decibels, cruising 85)
- Loud Music or Television (Ranges, up to about 110 decibels)
- Engines (Motorcycles – 90 decibels)
- Toys (Ranges, up to about 100 decibels)
- Household appliances (Washing machine, 90 decibels)
- Lawn mower (90 decibels)
Are you going through that list cringing? I know I did! Toys, lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners…these are the items I use in my own home weekly and I never once suspected that they could put my toddler in danger.
John Hopkins Children’s Hospital states that some of the most common household appliances adolescents are exposed to are blenders, hair dryers, and lawn mowers.
SHORT ON TIME? PIN IT!
We all know that loud toys can be grating on the nerves, but not many of us suspect that they can be genuinely harmful as well. The Sight and Hearing Association publishes a list of the noisiest toys every year.
Do you know what toy made the top of 2018’s?
Not a drum set or karaoke machine, but an infant toy, the Sing Alphabet Zoo by LeapFrog. Now, the Sing Alphabet Zoo is actually a really cool toy, but it also tested at 102dB when placed next to a baby’s ear.
If you look at our list above, that’s almost as louder than a passing motorcycle.
I’m not sharing this information to scare you away from noise-making toys, but simply to raise awareness that some, can in fact, be harmful to your baby’s hearing over time.
How to Tell if A Noise is Too Loud: The Shout Test
I don’t know about you, but I’m a little rusty measuring decibels with my mind.
A good trick to use is the Shout Test. Basically, whenever you’re unable to hold a regular conversation, that’s a good indication that the sound level is too high for your baby.
The Best Baby Noise Protection Methods
So, now we know about the hidden hazards our baby is exposed to. Let’s get into some actual techniques and products we can use for infant hearing protection. Prevention and limited exposure is a given, so let’s dive into the most popular method.
Concerts, planes, fireworks, even plane rides, can all damage your baby’s hearing (and terrify them too).
Protecting your baby’s ears from loud noises with earmuffs is a great strategy. Just plan on tossing a pair into your diaper bag whenever you go to something big.
But don’t stop there! Purchasing a good pair of baby headphones will protect him for your household hazards as well. If you run your vacuum and your baby starts wailing, that could be an indication that you need to whip out the ear muffs.
Not all infant ear protection is created equal. You need to look for earmuffs with a noise reduction rating (NRR) of at least 22, but preferably around 30.
Fit and adjustability is also an important consideration. Earmuffs should fit just right; too loose and it won’t protect your baby’s ears properly, too tight and the pressure can be damaging.
If you’re looking for recommendations, I love the FridayBaby Noise Cancelling Headphones. They are highly adjustable (they fit babies from 0-24 months), have a 5-year warranty, and are designed for a 31 decibel rating.
Plus, I have a 10% off coupon code ( ERINBIBL )!
Distance actually makes a huge impact on how your baby detects noise. The closer your baby is to a sound, the more pressure and damage his ears are subjected to.
Above we talked about toys being one of the most unexpected hazards for babies. It’s not necessarily that infant toys are overwhelmingly loud. Babies tend to hold these toys close to their faces, increasing their exposure. For example, the Sing Alphabet Zoo is rated at 100 decibels when placed next to a baby’s ear, and only 85 decibels when 10 inches apart.
Test the toys your baby plays with. If your baby holds his favorite ambulance next to his ears, try placing it next to yours. If it doesn’t pass the Shout Test, you’ll need to either move the toy to a safer distance or turn the sound off.
When you’re going to loud events, try to be conscientious of your location. If your baby is watching a fireworks show, experts recommend keeping your baby at least 20 meters away from the blast. The same goes for concerts, sirens, anything that measures high.
Use Decibel Measure App
Which brings us to the next method of infant hearing protection: technology.
Even if you use the Shout Test, gauging the sound level of an object is difficult. For example, if you’re going to a concert, where the noise levels fluctuate frequently, using the Shout Test is almost impossible. Even at home, when you’re enjoying a good movie, it’s easy to lose track of how high the noise level is.
Downloading a decibel measure app can take out a lot of the guesswork. I like to use my decibel app when we’re watching a movie in our media room–a confined space with multiple speakers. I try to keep the sound level below about 70, that way if there’s a loud moment, my daughter’s ears will be perfectly safe.
Signs Your Baby’s Hearing May Be Damaged
Unfortunately, many parents (myself included) don’t learn of these guidelines until their baby has been exposed to harmful loud noises. If you’re concerned that your baby’s hearing may be impaired, there are signs of infant hearing impairment that you can look for.
Typically, hearing loss is a gradual decline. So, if you notice these signs, all is not lost. However, it’s important that you recognize these signs so you can meet with your pediatrician.
Signs Before 6 Months:
- Baby doesn’t startle at loud noises
- Won’t turn after you say her name (only reacts to sight)
- Doesn’t turn toward sounds
After 1 Year:
- Hasn’t started to repeat words
- Will not obey simple commands
- Will not respond to whispers
Hearing loss can be a gradual decline that takes any parent by surprise. By making small accommodations to protect your baby’s ears from loud noises, you’re making great leaps to prevent years of complications.
Using earmuffs, keeping a safe distance from loud noises, and measuring decibels to confirm your suspicions can make a world of difference.
The last, best advice I can give you is to trust your baby’s cues. Loud noises hurt. If your baby is crying during a loud noise, that can be a good indication that it’s just too much for him (even if it’s tolerable for you).
Now that you know about infant hearing protection, it’s time to spread the word! Raising awareness can help other parents end this silent epidemic. Share this post with your friends or comment below about your experiences to help our other moms.