Hearing Loss

Tips to Prevent Infant Hearing Loss

Infants are fragile; the world is loud. Luckily, protecting infants from hearing loss is something parents can work on to prevent. 

One’s ears, which regulates hearing and balance, should be taken care of before one is even born. Here are tips moms, dads, and members of the family can put into practice when welcoming a new life into this world.

Hearing loss prevention for infants begins prenatally before the baby is even born. Then, doctors and audiologists check their hearing after delivery. and then the baby adapts to the home environment. Your best bet is to have a strong baby - and then protect that baby as best as you possibly can. This article will teach you what to watch out for to help keep your child's hearing safe!

Prenatal Care

The importance of having a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy is critical to the physical and mental development of your baby. At the minimum, you shouldn’t smoke, drink alcohol, or commit strenuous activities while pregnant. 

Singing

Sing to your prenatal baby. Research shows that singing lullabies during pregnancy helps babies grow healthier. This makes sense, since human beings are wired to listen for musical patterns, melodies, and rhythm.

Besides connecting you and your baby in a special way, prenatal singing has also been shown to increase hearing acuity.  

Avoiding Continued Exposure

Mothers, if you work in a factory or loud warehouse (hovering around 65 decibels or higher in hourly volume) request an internal transfer to a quieter work area. Consistent eight-hour shifts in a noisy environment are not good.

A fetus begins to hear as early as 18 weeks. Babies are naturally attuned to auditory stimuli. A 2009 study found that babies as young as 6-8 months of age could listen to recordings of people singing – and actually match those recordings to videos of people singing with the sound turned off. This helps prenatal physicians identify adult figures in their life – supporting the conclusion that you should sing lullabies to your baby in utero so that she gets used to the sound of you and your partner’s voice. 

Post-Delivery

Routine prenatal care and living a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy will aid you post-delivery, leading to a smoother and less painful medical procedure, Post delivery you should expect to have an audiologist come into the hospital to perform one of two hearing screenings.  

The Two Screening Tests Used to Check Your Baby’s Hearing After Delivery

  1. AABR (automated auditory brainstem response). Checks your baby’s hearing nerves. Electrodes are placed on the baby’s head (where the nerves fire) and as tones of various decibel level frequency levels are played through headphones into the baby’s ear – -  nerve response is recorded.
  2. OAE (otoacoustic emissions) Measures how your baby reacts to echoes, clicks and tones are played in their inner ear. A tiny probe produces sound waves in the inner ear and doctors are able to determine hearing threshold. 

 

Importance of Getting Your Baby’s Hearing Tested

Experts say we should listen up from the beginning. If your baby has undiagnosed hearing loss, it can trip up her speech development, and lead to later struggles in school. The science behind brain plasticity shows how fast we learn when young, and how much information is taken in by a newborn (from the 5 senses) on a daily basis; the amount of sensory information, including ones’ hearing, is astounding.

Impeding the development of such a crucial human function is a tragedy, because it disconnects your newborn and new child from natural spoken language development. Babies learn from the time they are born. One of the ways they learn is through hearing. If they have problems with hearing and do not receive the right treatment and early intervention service, babies will have trouble with speech and language development.

Question: “What are the next steps if you’ve already done all you can to safeguard and foster the growth of the hearing capabilities of your baby?”

Answer: Protect the baby from environmental damage. That is, keep your child away from loud noises.

Question: “How loud is too loud?”

Answer: Read on to find out!

Interacting with the World: Navigating through Loud Environments Successfully

We live in a noisy world. Busy freeways, noisy restaurants, construction equipment all negatively impact hearing ability. And your family doesn’t have to live in a downtown city center to experience extraordinarily loud sounds.

Air conditioners, vacuum cleaners, and even hand dryers in public restrooms create noise at 80 decibels or above, far beyond the recommended noise threshold for most adults, not to mention babies and children.

However, let’s say you have a baby or young child, and are starting to take her outside of the house on walks and trips – what are some of the things you should keep in mind? Further, what are some of the loud, and potentially damaging items you should be on alert for as a vigilant parent? 

Decibel Levels

A decibel (dB) is a unit used to measure the intensity/power of a sound. They range in scale from 0 to 170.

  • 0 The softest sound a person with normal hearing can register
  • 20db Rustling leaves
  • 30db A whisper
  • 40db Quiet office/library
  • 60db Normal conversation
  • 55db Electric toothbrush
  • 50-75db Air conditioner & Washing Machine
  • 65-85db Vacuum cleaner
  • 80-95db Garbage disposal; Hand dryers in public restrooms
  • 100 Squeaky toys held close to the ear
  • 110 Power saw & Leaf blower & truck backing up
  • 120db Concert
  • 130db Ambulance siren & Thunder
  • 140db Airplane taking off
  • 157db Balloon pop
  • 160db+ Shotgun blast; Rifle held close to ear without ear protection

 

 Keep Decibel Levels Under 85 

The World Health Organization recommends that the decibels one listens to throughout the day should not exceed 85. 85 is the pain threshold. Anything higher than 85 is liable to cause  hearing loss; whether you’re adult or baby.

Noise levels above 140 decibels can cause damage to hearing after just one exposure. (This is why you see airport terminal workers and baggage handlers wearing large noise-canceling headsets). 

Around the Home

Depending on the make and model, appliances like hair dryers, washing machines, air conditioners, coffee makers, whistling kettles, telephones, and garbage disposals can adversely affect hearing due to their loud decibel levels. Continued exposure causes more damage, so just be vigilant when operating these common household items. For example, you may consider having your daughter put on earplugs when you use a blow dryer on her hair. You may wish to move the crib away from the air conditioner if the machine is an older model and tends to run continuously. 

Outside the Home

Interestingly, even modern hand blow dryers like those seen in public restrooms are dangerous. Hand dryers in public restrooms can be as loud as 90 decibels, according to researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London. Even short-term exposure to hand dryer noise can adversely affect sensitive ears and have been shown to increase tinnitus, a condition marked by ringing in the ears. 

It may be wise to invest in a pair of earplugs for your little ones. And if you must be exposed to noise, it is recommended that you limit your exposure time and wear hearing protection. 

Swimming Earplugs 

If your child swims, it may be wise to read Swim Earplugs: A Buyer’s Guide for Swimmers and Water Lovers. Note that foam earplugs (the ones typically used for sound suppression) are not good in the pool; opt for plastic or silicone-based earplugs when swimming. 

Taking Preventative Action to Prevent Further Damage

You can take action to prevent damage to your baby’s hearing. Hearing protection for infants and toddlers exist – and are suggested while traveling on planes, trains, subways - or other loud methods of public transport.

If you feel your baby may have a hearing loss give our hearing specialists a call. You may qualify for a free hearing aid evaluation in your local area.

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