While wearing sunscreen and safety gear is second nature in protecting kids during their favorite summer activities, keeping their ears safe also requires close attention. The hallmarks of summer fun—fireworks, pools, concerts, and amusement parks—can sometimes produce dangerous conditions for children’s ears.
Here are three ways to protect little ears this summer.
1. Prevent noise-induced hearing loss
Close or prolonged exposure to the booming sounds of concerts, movies, and roller coasters can damage the sensitive hearing cells inside the ear, resulting in temporary—and sometimes even permanent—hearing loss. While normal speaking falls somewhere between 50 to 60 decibels (dB), concerts can roar at an alarming level between 110 and 120 dB or even 140 dB when standing near speakers. Similarly, roller coasters produce sound output levels up to 100 dB, which vary according to the size, speed, and material of the ride.
With 85 dB as the maximum level for safe noise, a handful of these summer activities enter harmful territory, inviting in the possibility of noise-induced hearing loss. Protect kids’ ears from immediate or future hearing loss by limiting exposure to these harmful noise conditions and wearing adequate ear protection. Whether store-bought or custom-made, earplugs can moderate the sound that reaches the inner ear. This lets children enjoy their favorite summer pastimes while avoiding hearing loss.
2. Protect kids’ ears in the water
Pools, water parks, and beaches are places to caution when keeping kids’ ears safe this summer.External Otitis, or “swimmer’s ear,” is caused when water gets trapped in the ear canal due to a curved or obstructed passageway. Once inside, fluids can attract growth of unwelcome bacteria and fungi inside the cavities of the inner ear, causing a variety of effects like tinnitus, vertigo, nausea, or inflammation. To prevent this, kids can wear earplugs that are designed especially for water sports or activities. Unlike typical foam earplugs, swimming ear protection is made of a non-porous, flexible material which keeps water from running into the ear canal, thereby preventing future discomfort, infections, or hearing damage.
3. Be wary of changes in pressure
Ear barotrauma is a condition caused by a difference in pressure inside and outside of the middle ear. At its mildest form, barotraumas stop at minimal, temporary ear discomfort and an “ear popping” sensation. However, serious cases of pressure damage can result in recurring discomfort, ear pain, hearing loss, or a ruptured eardrum. When hiking at high altitudes, scuba diving, or flying this summer, instruct kids to equalize the pressure inside and outside their eardrum. This is accomplished by opening the Eustachian tube—a structure that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat—through motions like chewing, yawning, or swallowing.
If a child experiences any ear discomfort or symptoms of hearing loss after participating in summer activities, immediately contact your local hearing care professional to help diagnose the problem.