Hearing damage creeps in at a young age: ‘Then it gets worse’

About 14 percent of children ages 9 to 11 have early hearing damage, also called noise damage. This was already evident in 2018 from a large population survey of Erasmus MC, Generation R.

Parties and festivals

If more damage is added at a later age, while walking for example, things go from bad to worse. Clouette: “It builds up. If you first listened to a lot of music as a kid, and later go to school parties, and later go to concerts or festivals, more and more damage may be done to the hair cells in your ears. It’s irreversible.”

Horror stories about acute tinnitus are well known: you always have a buzzing in your head, from whistling, hissing, and knocking.

There is no cure, so preventing noise damage is the motto. Where are the risks? “The main exposures to loud noise for children are phones and tablets. They listen to music, play games, and watch YouTube videos. Often with headphones, because parents don’t always want to hear that sound.”

Use the selector

You can safely be exposed to 88 decibels for 15 hours a week in your spare time, says Kluite. “Set a limiter on your child’s tablet or phone. This ensures that the sound never gets above 85 decibels.” A survey conducted by SafetyNL in 2020 showed that a quarter of young people have a very loud voice.

Without this limiter, the sound of a tablet or phone on your children’s ears can reach 100 decibels. This can cause some serious damage. Kloet: “Every additional 3 decibels doubles the impact of sound on your hearing. And cuts your safe listening time in half.”

on the political agenda

Preventing hearing damage is also a topic of debate in The Hague. At the beginning of this year, Secretary of State Martin van Augen for Public Health, Welfare and Sport asked the Health Council for a vision on preventing hearing damage: “The World Health Organization recommends 100 decibels as the maximum noise level during festivals and concerts. 18 years old. Asked for advice on this.”

The Secretary of State also asked the Health Board to consider prevention of harm to health in the private sphere, for example by music players. Recommendations should be available in the fall.

Specifically for young children, the Board of Health was asked to provide separate advice on additional hearing screening. “That will come later.”

SafetyNL calls for additional hearing screening for all children at the end of elementary school or at the beginning of high school. This is to detect hearing damage, but also to draw attention to risks. Now the hearing of infants and young children is only tested once as a standard.

Dennis Cox is someone who definitely knows the dangers of hearing damage. The otolaryngologist at Five Lakes Clinic emphasizes the importance of headphones with sound limiters for children. “For example, when a child is playing, the sound does not consistently reach 85 decibels. But there are some occasional loud anomalies. The limiter ensures that such an outside remains within the safe standard.”

“You hear worse”

Parents should also be aware that their hearing has suffered more from wear and tear than their children. “If you play a song out loud, your child will hear it louder, so keep that in mind.”

Cox stresses that panicking is definitely not necessary. “We should not be afraid of music, for example. Music is something that humanity has always enjoyed. And it must remain that way. I think you should also convey this message to children. Listen to music, as well as music that your parents do not like. But Not too tall and not too loud. And if you go to a concert or festival, bring earplugs.”

Cox does not believe that additional hearing screening for children at the end of elementary school or the beginning of high school is necessary. “Measurement does not always mean knowledge. I have enough patients with tinnitus, for whom a hearing test result is good.”

Tiktok campaign?

The doctor sees greater benefit in the information in primary schools, such as that given by himself. “I explain how your ear and hearing work and what happens with a lot of noise. And how you can prevent damage.”

He continues, “My kids come home with things they hear and see on TikTok. The government could think of a media campaign about it with a major influencer.”

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