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Summer Travel, Mobile Devices, And Kids’ Hearing Health

Child looks at iPad with earbuds

The start of summer often brings an opportunity for a vacation and some family travel, but is all of that travel dangerous to your children’s hearing health?
With the kids off of school and the return of summer weather, many people take some time for a beach vacation or a family reunion. While these fun activities are often a focal point and a much-anticipated break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, they do pose some unanticipated risks, particularly to our hearing.
These days, traveling can be a stressful event. What with plane delays, overbooked flights, road construction, and complicated public transport systems, just getting to your destination can be a major accomplishment. Thus, many of us begin our travels armed with a collection of different entertainment options, from books and laptops to tablets and crossword puzzles.
While these entertainment options can help us get through a long flight or some serious traffic, personal electronic devices are known to be linked to hearing loss, particularly in children, so they must be used with caution.
Travel Entertainment And Hearing Loss
According to a new study by Dutch researchers at the Erasmus University Medical Center, children that listen to music using headphones are at a greater risk for noise-related hearing loss. After examining the hearing test results of thousands of children aged 9 to 11, the researchers found that nearly 14 percent experienced some sort of difficulty hearing sounds at higher frequencies, something that suggests potential noise-related hearing damage.
The researchers then compared these hearing test result to information from the children’s parents about how frequently the children listen to music on portable devices and how loud they keep the volume. Ultimately, the researchers learned that regardless of how long a child used headphones for or how high they set the volume, children that used these devices at least once or twice a week were more than twice as likely to have signs of hearing loss than children who don’t use the devices.
Since 90 percent of today’s children and teens use some form of portable electronic device for listening to music, this is some jaw-dropping information. Particularly for those of us who travel with children and teens, we might find that they spend quite a lot of their time on these devices during family vacations.
Reducing Your Child’s Hearing Loss Risk
Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult – if not impossible – to convince today’s children and teens to quit cold turkey on their devices. Instead of causing a major family argument right before your vacation, consider these strategies to reduce your child’s hearing loss risk:

  • Encourage them to listen on low or moderate volumes. Often, a simple conversation can convince your child to listen to the music at a responsible level. Or, you can set a maximum volume setting on your child’s device.
  • Invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. We often turn up the volume because our surroundings are too loud. Noise-canceling headphones can reduce the need to turn up the volume past 50%.
  • Make sure the headphones fit properly. Ill-fitting headphones cause sound leakage, which means your child has to turn the volume up. A good fitting pair of headphones can reduce this leakage.

Hearing loss in children can be a scary thought, so it’s important to be proactive and aware about threats to your children’s hearing health. This summer travel season, be attentive to your children’s screen time as it might have a negative impact on their hearing. As always, if you’re concerned about your child’s hearing loss, speak to your hearing healthcare provider for help.