We tend to think hearing loss is limited to older adults, but children can also develop early hearing damage. Based on the CDC’s research, about 5.2 million children and teens have noise-induced hearing loss. One of the major causes is everyday noise, especially from media and entertainment. Although it’s important that your children receive regular hearing evaluations with an audiologist during their growing years, protecting your children’s ears is your responsibility as a parent. Here are three key ways to take ownership of your children’s hearing health.

1. Limit the use and volume of personal media players

MP3 players, smartphones and tablets are popular sources of music and media entertainment for children and teens, and the earbuds used with these devices are the main point of concern for hearing health.

If your children’s devices have volume-limiting software, use it. Otherwise, closely monitor the volume settings they use. If they can’t hear you talking to them within arm’s reach, the volume they’re using is too loud. Teach your children to listen at the lowest possible setting and check the volume of their devices before they turn them on. Regardless of whether they’re listening at safe volumes, limit your children’s listening time to no more than an hour before they take a break.

2. Watch the television volume and don’t let children sit too close to it

Your children or teens might be in the habit of cranking up the television volume to hear it from another room or over a noisy appliance. Remind them to keep the volume at a reasonable level, listen in the same room and turn off other sources of interference. Also, make sure children are sitting far enough away from television speakers (don’t forget surround-sound speakers). 

3. Model smart ear protection behaviors – your children will follow your lead

Children quickly pick up their parents’ good and bad behaviors, regardless of what you tell them. Make sure you’re always modeling smart ear protection practices like lowering the volume, limiting earbud time and wearing ear protection when you mow the lawn. This way, whether they remember what you taught them or not, they have a good example to follow.

Despite growing cases of noise-induced hearing loss among children and adolescents, you can play an active role in protecting your child from its most common causes. By practicing these habits and getting regular checkups with your child’s audiologist, you’ll both prevent and catch early signs of hearing damage before they interfere with your child’s ability to enjoy a healthy hearing lifestyle.