It’s common to associate hearing loss with aging. However, hearing loss in children and teenagers is more prevalent than you’d think. It is estimated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that 14.9% of children in the US ages 6 to 19 experience some measure of hearing loss.1
There are several reasons for the high incidence of hearing loss in children and teens. Some children are born with hearing loss, known as congenital hearing loss. Other common causes of hearing loss include ear infections, exposure to ototoxic medicines, certain infectious diseases, and noise exposure.
Of the number of ways that a child or teen can develop hearing loss, by far the most prevalent is noise exposure.2 This noise exposure can come in a variety of forms, like listening to overly loud music or being around loud machinery. Thankfully, noise exposure is simple to protect against, and that will go a long way in helping you protect your child or teen from hearing loss.
Hearing loss prevention in children
Learning how to prevent hearing loss for your child or teenager is largely like how adults need to approach their own hearing health. Primarily, you will want to avoid excessively loud noises, especially for prolonged periods of time. If you do need to be around loud noises, be sure to use hearing protection.
One of the most frequent problems leading to hearing loss in children and teens is excessively loud headphone use. Experts recommend following the 60/60 rule to help combat this problem. Listen to only 60% of the maximum volume setting on a device for no more than 60 minutes per day. Also, if you can hear what your child or teen is listening to on their headphones when you are standing near them, it’s a good indicator that they need to turn down the volume.
Hearing loss signs to watch for in your children
How do you know if your child or teenager is experiencing hearing loss? There are several signs that may indicate that your child or teen is struggling with some degree of hearing loss.
- Muffled hearing or ringing in their ears: Tinnitus, or the experience of hearing noises that don’t exist, is commonly experienced along with hearing loss in both children and adults. However, children who experience tinnitus may not realize they aren’t hearing real sounds and/or attribute it to their imagination.
- Increase in fatigue: It requires energy for us to listen. Hearing loss often requires the person experiencing it to spend an increased amount of energy to hear. This can lead to increased fatigue, especially after busy days or spending time in a noisy setting.
- Distracted behavior: While distracted behavior can be a sign of attention issues, it is also a warning sign for hearing loss in children and teens. Especially when background noise is present, a child or teen with hearing loss may be easily distracted by the excess noise they need to navigate to hear properly.
- Annoyance with their ears or head: Children who are unfamiliar with the concept of hearing loss may lack the vocabulary to fully describe what they are experiencing. Sometimes this can result in vague descriptions of their ears or head as being somehow less than ideal.
- Dislikes loud environments: You may notice a tendency for your child or teen with hearing loss to avoid noisy environments altogether. Similarly, they may become upset in one way or another in such an environment. The extra effort required for them to hear in environments with excessive noise may cause them to become irritable.
One of the best ways to help fight hearing loss in your child or teen is to set a positive example for them to follow. Let them know that you take your hearing health seriously and that they need to as well. While children and teens may think that hearing loss is something they don’t need to worry about until they are older, make sure they understand that hearing loss prevention is a life-long process. A great place to start is to take our online hearing quiz. It’s a fun and easy way for you and your child to discover where your hearing is at and if there are potential issues that need to be addressed.