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Where’s the Noise? Everywhere (and it’s getting louder).

Many kids are exposed to too much noise. Over time, exposure to excessive noise can cause hearing loss. Hearing loss from too much noise—called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)—may be hardly noticeable at first. Once lost, however, hearing cannot be restored.

Boys holding their mouthsAs the world gets louder, noises compete with each other. For example, think of a common scene in a home kitchen. If the dishwasher is running, you might increase the volume on the kitchen TV to hear it better. Add a blender and garbage disposal, and your spouse might turn the TV volume up even more. If the phone rings, you have to turn up the headset volume to be heard over the TV. Then your son and daughter turn up their headsets to hear their music or video games over the noise around them. Noise, noise, NOISE!

The design of today’s restaurants is making them far noisier than they once were. Hard surfaces like glass, metal, concrete, and polished wood reflect sound and amplify noise. Some restaurant owners use these materials because it makes the place sound lively. Others use them because they encourage people to eat faster, allowing more parties to be seated at the same table during the dining period.

Whether you prefer classical, jazz, rock, pop, hip hop, or even bagpipe music, concerts are also sources of potentially damaging noise. A symphony orchestra playing at peak volume can easily reach 100 decibels, and certain brass and percussion instruments have registered 130 to 140 decibels at close range. The music at a pop concert typically maintains a fairly constant level of 110 decibels. If the fans are screaming, as tweens might do at some concerts, the noise can register at 115 to 120 decibels! That’s roughly as loud as an ambulance siren!

Consider other common sources of noise: Leaf blowers. Boom cars. Stereo headsets. Home entertainment systems. Movie theaters. Traffic. Stadiums. Not all exposure to loud noise can be prevented, but when the noise is too loud for too long a time, a little effort to protect your hearing and your children’s hearing can go a long way.