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Every day we have common experiences where noise levels are dangerous to our hearing, yet most of us aren’t thinking about how to protect our hearing or the hearing of our children. We are always reminding our kids to buckle their seat belts, but we seldom remind them to protect their hearing. As October is National Protect Your Hearing Month, I feel like it’s important to shed some light on this topic and to start learning about how to prevent hearing loss.

Many of us assume that noise-induced hearing loss is just something that happens to all of us. Others assume it only happens to older people. What if I told you that noise-induced hearing loss is on the rise in school-aged children? And would it surprise you if I told you that this type of hearing loss is 100-percent preventable?

According to the National Institute of Health, it’s not just the exposure to the occasionally loud siren blast or other extremely loud noise that can cause damage to our hearing, It’s the constant exposure to noises over 85 decibels, which isn’t very loud. A normal conversation measures about 60 decibels. Prolonged exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can cause noise-induced hearing loss. And once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Most of our kids listen to their music with their earbuds in their ears at levels that are 85 decibels or higher. Take extra precautions. The concentrated sound from this type of equipment is more likely to damage your child’s hearing than just listening to music in a room because when listening to music in a room, much of the surroundings — like carpet, furniture, and walls — absorb the sound. With headphones or earbuds, the frequencies go directly into the ears.

Along with protecting our kids’ hearing, it’s important to think about your own. As adults, we’re exposed to noise, too. I now carry a couple of pairs of earplugs with me at all times. One pair I bought at a music store for under $20 and the other I had made with a kit that I ordered online; it’s custom-made for my ears. I went to an IMAX movie recently. At the start of the movie, the theater was way too noisy, so I pulled out some ear protection and wore them throughout the movie. I was able to hear just fine for the entire film.

These sorts of experiences are common, and yet most of us don’t even think about protecting our hearing or our kids’ hearing. I urge you to be more aware of the noise around you and your families. Tell your kids to turn down the volume in their headphones and earbuds and make sure you’re protecting your own hearing. We must be aware that noise-induced hearing loss is preventable.

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