Hearing Loss in Children
Love to hear those morning birds? Ocean waves foaming onto the shore? How great is it we can hear a car coming so we can move out of the way? Hearing is a joy, and unfortunately, loss of hearing isn’t something you can fix. Dr. Katie Laney at Clarksdale Speech and Hearing Center is seeing increased numbers of children who are already showing noise-induced hearing loss.
“Hearing loss is something we expect to happen as we age, but kids are failing school screenings in ever-increasing numbers,” she said. So what’s the deal with noise? The issue is sound level and the length of time the ear is exposed to it. The closer the noise is to the eardrum, the greater the damage.Not to mention, the smaller the ear canal, the greater the damage. “Duck hunting is the worst thing for ears,” Dr. Laney said. “You have people in close proximity to each other, all firing guns repeatedly. Guns produce about 140 decibels. It’s a massive amount of sudden-impact noise.”
If you decide to take a child on a hunting trip, be sure to provide adequate hearing protection, either soundproofing earphones or high quality earplugs. This advice is essential for adults as well.
“Swimmer’s Ear” and ear infections may cause temporary hearing loss in children, but it’s the permanent kind of hearing loss some parents don’t know enough about.
“Sensory-neural” ear problems involve the inner ear and the auditory nerve. This is the type caused by too much loud noise.
Dr. Laney helps us understand what happens when the ear is assaulted.
“Picture it like there’s seaweed floating in the fluid in the ear, and a loud sound is like a tidal wave,” she said. “That wave can shear off some of the seaweed, and that creates the damage. That’s often accompanied by ringing in the ears.”
She said salt, caffeine, loud noises and certain medicines may make the ringing worse. Ringing in the ears is a big indicator of trauma to the ear. Dr. Laney suggests several solutions that parents should enforce with their children. First, be aware of the potential for loud noises. If you hear an ambulance nearing, have your children cover their ears with their palms.
Eliminate or significantly decrease use of earbuds! (Enough said.)
Dr. Laney recommends “Doc” plugs for swimming, and swim molds that can be custom made. Even earmuffs help.
“What you want to do is seal the ear off,” she said. “Custom ear plugs or headphone silencers are best.”
If your child is displaying the symptoms of ear discomfort, get him or her to an expert doctor immediately. So here’s to the birds and the buzzing bees, and a lifetime of the joy of hearing.
Elizabeth Phelps was raised on the Gulf Coast. She is a writer, speaker, teacher and youth program facilitator. She has won awards for writing and inspirational youth programming using the arts.