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Ear Protection for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Kids

Have you ever been to a loud event like a monster truck show and seen children covering their ears?

Loud noises can be painful and damaging to tender young ears. You may be surprised to learn that Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing children need ear protection, too! Even if a person can’t hear, ear protection is still important. In this article, I’ll cover why it’s necessary and how to protect your Deaf child’s ears.

Why Do Deaf Children Need Ear Protection?

According to the International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (2022), loud noises can damage the hairs of the inner ear. These hairs send signals to the brain and, if damaged, can contribute to further hearing loss and mixed messages in the brain.

This applies to anyone at any level of hearing, including the Deaf. Damage to the physical ears can cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) as well as tinnitus, which can cause distressing buzzing or ringing sounds.

In addition to the physical effects on the ears, Sepand Bafti from says that hearing loss also affects the brain in other ways, like accelerating the aging process in otherwise healthy people. This sort of effect may not even be discovered until the damage is long done. As reported by Lifelong Hearing, Dr. Paul Martin Zwittag of the Kepler University Hospital in Linz, Austria states that noise exposure “also has a negative effect on the cardiovascular and vascular systems, hormonal systems, metabolism with the risk of type 2 diabetes, sleep quality, psychological well-being and cognitive performance.” That’s a lot of risks to come from loud sounds!

Imagine your child is at that monster truck show and the loud revving engines damage their ears.

Won’t she recover, since she’s young and healthy? Unfortunately, the experts don’t have good news about this—according to the CDC, “Damaged hair cells [in the ear] do not grow back” (2022). Once the damage is done, there’s no undoing it. Wouldn’t it be better to prevent hearing loss now—before it’s too late?

How loud does it have to be to cause potential hearing loss? Our ears are quite sensitive. The ICPhS states, “if you need to raise your voice in order to be heard, your surroundings are noisy enough to cause hearing loss” (2022). How loud is this, exactly? Experts say any sound above 85 decibels (dB) is loud enough to cause damage.

This helpful list from ExcelENT of Alabama breaks down just how loud certain everyday sounds are. For reference, normal conversation is considered to be around 60 dB. Consider the noise level of the following sounds:

  • City traffic – 88 dB

  • Noisy restaurant – 90 dB

  • Motorcycle – 97 dB

  • Chain saw – 110 dB

  • Concert – 120 dB

  • A jet taking off – 140 dB

Want to see how loud your environment is? Try the NIOSH Sound Level Meter app—a free iOS tool that will give you a live decibel reading!

How To Protect Your Deaf Child’s Ears

As a parent, it is your duty to protect your child, which includes protecting their ears. But how? Here are a few options to consider:

  • Move away from the noise if possible.

  • Turn down the volume if possible.

  • Be aware of ambient noise that you may get used to over time, such as traffic on a familiar street or the sounds at a shopping center. Although these may not seem shocking to you or your child, if the decibel level is too high, these background noises can still cause ear damage.

  • Use foam or molded earplugs. Be sure to check the size—these must be labeled for children.

  • Use canal caps, which are similar to earplugs but include a band that uses light pressure to keep the caps secure in the ear.

  • Consider “musician earplugs,” which are custom-molded to the wearer’s ears. These special earplugs allow a certain amount of natural sound while still offering great protection.

  • Use protective earmuffs, which are usually made of foam and plastic and come in a range of colors. These may be easier for children to take on and off themselves.