Any headphone noise louder than 110 decibels has an effect of stripping the insulation tissue from the nerve fibers responsible for carrying signals from the hearing system to the brain.
The loss of this protective coating (called myelin) disrupts the electrical nerve signalling pattern.
The exact same process, albeit this time due to attack from the immune system to the insulation tissue of the nerves damages them, specifically those located in the brain and leads to multiple sclerosis.
It’s been known for a long time that intensive noises can cause temporary hearing loss (known as ringing in the ears, or tinnitus) and even permanent hearing loss.
Prolonged LOUD Noises
It’s for the first time that neurologists have been able to identify the exact cause of damage to the nerve cells and how that process results in negative consequences regarding the hearing mechanism of the human body.
Prolonged exposure (above the safety decibel level of noise) can also alter the brain’s capacity to process speech, effectively making distinguishing speech sounds a more difficult task.
Neuroscientists have also concluded that intensive noise can cause permanent damage to the hair cells which also act as sound receivers in the ear. They do not grow back or regenerate, so once damaged, noise-induced hearing loss is imminent.
So please ensure you’re not exposing your infant to loud music via headphones, this concentrated volume can and will cause issues.
There are of course specific models of headphones with volume restrictions etc that you can use with your child.
More on that later.
Loud Noise & Pregnancy
How loud is too loud for a baby in the womb?
When pregnant, the exposure of noises above the safe decibel level increases the risk of hearing problems (and other health issues) not only for you but for the unborn baby as well.
By the 24th week of gestation, the unborn baby’s outer, inner and middle ear are all fairly well developed.
By this point, the cochlea is fully formed, and as such, the baby’s ear can transmit sounds to the brain for processing.
It’s estimated that somewhere between the 27th and 30th week of gestation, the fetus begins to respond to sounds coming outside of the womb.
It needs to be taken into consideration that sounds that might seem too loud for you are mostly muffled in the womb.
The walls of the uterus, coated with fat and muscle tissue in the abdominal captivity have a dampening function, so the sound waves reach the baby’s ear with much lower intensity.
The amniotic fluids which fill the inner ear prevent the eardrum from amplifying sounds and also dampen high-pitched sounds. However, the same amniotic fluids actually amplify the low-pitched sounds slightly.
exposure over prolonged periods of time to around 90 to 100 decibels and above (around the level of a chainsaw) significantly increases the chance of risk of your baby’s hearing.
It can also lead to premature birth or the baby having lower than normal weight when born. So stop the partying, you have more important things to consider…
Shorter exposure to sounds in the range of 150 to 155 decibels (the sound of a jet engine) has the same effect.
While inside the womb, the nature of the baby is very delicate, so be considerate.
Taking into consideration everything I just said, it needs to be noted that a pregnant woman shouldn’t forego noise to the extreme (to a degree where she doesn’t even turn on the TV or the radio anymore).
I’m not trying to scaremonger, just make you think and be considerate towards the little life you’re bringing into the world.
(And on that subject of bringing babies into the world, quick side-note.
It’s important that you simply keep noises in the safe range, which are mentioned in numerical value up above.
Simply put, while pregnant just don’t go to a heavy metal concert or don’t stand next to a chainsaw/lawnmower, or on the airport runway listening to jet engines and you should be just fine.
Noise Safety Levels: Are there decibels loud enough to kill you?
How soon can infants be around loud noise?
It would seem that when your baby is crying in the middle of the night in the midst of what was blissful silence, then noise won’t be a problem for them, but sadly that’s not the case.
Infant hearing systems are very vulnerable.
For adults, the safe volume of noise exposure should be around 90 decibels.
To get a clearer picture of how much that is, if you’re listening to music and you can maintain a conversation with another person while not having to raise the volume of your voice too much, it’s around the acceptable level.
However, infant hearing system is much more delicate and especially vulnerable to high pitched sounds.
Damage can occur if the volume is too intensive for even a short period of time, albeit lower amounts of volume are acceptable for a prolonged period of time if that period is not too lengthy.
Consideration is needed when you’re bringing your child to a public event where there will be a lot of talking, noise or even music.
The period in which the child is going to be exposed to the sounds, as well as how close it is to any speakers, for example, are things you must consider.
Always have a think about that when you enter public places, it may be OK and comfortable for you BUT not your little one, and mindful they can’t tell you it’s too loud.
There is no definitive method or even a number to decide at what age your child should be exposed to noise, but if you’ve taken into consideration the previously provided information, these following guidelines will let you know if your child’s hearing is doing ok:
Are your kids hearing OK? Tests you can try
If the infant is younger than three months, clapping your hands behind her hand should provoke a reaction in it. If it does so, you’ve kept your baby safe so far.
If the infant is between three and six months old, she should be reacting to interesting or familiar sounds like her name or its favorite toy. If when called out it responds to its name, a correct assumption would be that your child’s hearing system is doing fine.
If the infant is between six and ten months old, she should respond to her name on a regular basis as well as sounds like your voice and the ringing of the phone.
if the infant is between ten and fifteen months old, it should be able to respond to the names of objects such as the TV, a picture in a book or the squeaking of her favorite toy.
If all of these parameters are fulfilled, you have provided appropriate caretaking. Now go grab a drink and crank up that AC/DC …kidding!
Infants are highly susceptible to noise induced hearing damage from loud or high pitched noises as their skulls are much thinner compared to those of adults.
Prolonged or sudden exposure to loud or high-pitched noises can damage parts of the inner ear, which is the area responsible for hearing (such as the outer hair cell, inner hair cells, and nerves in the inner ear).
Damaging either of these segments can lead to hearing loss.
Safe levels of noise vary
according to the duration and the intensity of the exposure.
As an example, using a very loud hair dryer near your child can cause hearing damage to your infant.
Infants can’t tell when and what’s too loud, so it’s up to you to take steps to protect it from hearing damage.
Generally, any noise equivalent or less than 80 decibels should not cause problems.
To understand 80 decibels is the equivalent of the noise in a restaurant or city traffic (if not too heavy or too close exposure to slow traffic with a lot of horns beeping). A normal conversation is around 60 decibels.
It’s worth mentioning that some children’s toys can be really loud too, even though they are intended for them.
While the 80 decibel level of noise is acceptable when it comes from a distance, your child may hold the toy too close to his hearing system.
Some toys can cause an intensity of noise as much as 120 decibels which is the equivalent of a jet plane taking off.
It would be advisable to check the volume of the toy by intuition before making a purchase in order to decide if it’s safe to be around your child.
The same can be said for iPads & Tablet devices, be careful of their volume and how close they are to your child. You don’t want eyesight issues thrown in with hearing difficulties.
Why your newborn doesn’t startle at loud noises?
An infant’s ability to hear is correlated with its ability to learn. A hearing screening is the most efficient and easiest way to tell if the baby has hearing problems in the early stages of his life.
This should already be part of their early life care plan, if not then please get this arranged with your midwife, Doctor or GP.
Some babies don’t startle at loud noises period, so don’t worry that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem.
Some people associate that not startling means that the baby is feeling calm and secure, or just has a low temperament.
On its own merit, this can be a good sign and often and indication that they will become a very calm sleeper.
However, there are precautions to take if you see any of the following warning signals, and if they persist or are present at all times, it would be advisable to request medical advice.
Warning signs to look out for
Newborns to 3 months old
doesn’t startle in response to sudden loud sounds
doesn’t respond to sounds, voices or music
doesn’t get soothed by soft, calming sounds
doesn’t make vowel sounds like “ahh” or “Ooh”
doesn’t register that a conversation is going on in the room and it persists with its noisy activities, such as playing with his squeaking toy
little above 3 to 8 months old
doesn’t wiggle her head toward a sound he/she can’t see
doesn’t enjoy shaking a rattle or playing with squeaking toys
doesn’t try to imitate sounds
hasn’t started to babble vocal expressions to herself or when others talk to him/her
doesn’t respond to vocal tone changes, such as a strict “NO”
seems to pay attention to vibrating noises only
Around 9 to 12 months
doesn’t respond to his or her name
doesn’t vary his or her pitch while babbling
doesn’t make different consonant sounds when babbling
at the 12-month mark, doesn’t understand words for different common items (toy, TV, shoe) or hasn’t spoken a single word
If more than two-thirds of these signals are persistent on a constant basis, the appropriate medical advice is suggested.
Go get the appropriate tests done to rule out any health concerns
What parents should know about hearing loss in children
Here’s a short video explaining just that
Infant hearing protection options
So far, we’ve covered the dangers associated with varying noise levels, and exposure for children, including impacts based on intensity and prolonged sound exposure, plus when certain care taking measures should be taken.
With all that said..
However, it’s still often difficult addressing all situations in all events
Simply put, even when we try our best it’s not enough.
If you live too close to the main traffic line with constant noise or near a construction site ( As I did when we moved into our new house!), then you may need to consider hearing protection equipment for your children.
On such efficient way to protect your child’s hearing is the use of infant noise cancelling headphones.
This noise canceling headphones (or in general terms, hearing protection equipment for infants) function in a way that they limit the level of sound which reaches the hearing system of the child.
They don’t block all the noise, just make it softer.
They can then be used when the child is inevitably going to be exposed to a sudden or a prolonged noisy experience. A great little problem solver for social occasions.
Imagine you cannot get a babysitter
And you are
attending stadium events, gymnasiums, amusement parks, theatres and other entertainment facilities.
attending automobile races, sporting events or music concerts (regardless of the type of music or performance).
attending shooting sports ( I know it’s obviously OK but still..). The sound of a gunshot is equivalent to the sound a jet engine makes when it takeoff, which we already concluded is in the danger range for your kid.