Noise and children

Noise is bad for children

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

One of the nice things about doing a Google search is the serendipity of coming across something else.

I recently saw a mention of a World Health Organization statement that children shouldn’t be exposed to noise above 120 decibels, so I began searching for the source of that statement. While searching, I found this 2009 WHO PowerPoint presentation (pdf) about the adverse health effect of noise on children–not just hearing loss, but hypertension, increases in stress hormone levels, and difficulties learning, among a multitude of other adverse effects. Eventually, I found the 120 decibel recommendation in the WHO 1999 Community Noise Guidelines monograph.

It’s distressing that this information clearly has been known for so long–the pediatric noise hazards for almost a decade, the Community Noise Guidelines for almost two decades—and we still haven’t done anything to protect our children from noise.

With our first grandchild just born, I will renew my efforts to protect children and all people from the dangers of noise. I hope he grows up in a quieter world.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

More study needed on hearing loss among preschool teachers

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

As an educator, psychologist and researcher on the effects of noise on children’s learning, I have been long interested in the sounds to which children and teachers are exposed to in the classroom. While the literature is indeed plentiful on the dangers of loud sounds and noise to the hearing of young children, as well as to the impacts of noise to their cognition and learning abilities, and my own writings have noted that noise in the classroom disrupts teaching, little has been said about the impacts of loud sounds and noise to which teachers of young children are exposed.

Now we have this study from Sweden that has found hearing-related problems in preschool women teachers that is considerably higher than would be expected. I am looking forward to reading the published study of this paper to learn more about the methodology and specific findings but still, based on this report, would suggest that there be additional studies in other countries, including the U.S. If indeed these findings hold up, then the design of schools with a special emphasis on the acoustics must be given greater thought as the article suggests.

And better school design would also benefit the students. Groups of children tend to be noisy but even here the sound levels can be lessened with appropriate interventions and children can also be taught the importance of being quieter in reading sessions and at times when they read or draw on their own at their desks.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press.  In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.

Hearing-related problems are common among preschool teachers

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Anyone who has seen a bunch of schoolchildren, in a park or a museum or a zoo–perhaps anywhere other than a library–knows that they can be noisy. And noise exposure causes hearing problems.

This report from Sweden discusses the high prevalence of hearing-related problems among preschool teachers there, including hearing loss, difficulty understanding speech, and sensitivity to noise.

The findings have to be replicated in other countries–maybe Swedish kids are noisier than others?–but the report shows that noise is a ubiquitous occupational hazard, even for preschool teachers.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Loud music listened to on headphones is causing hearing loss in children

Photo credit: Gordon licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

My main noise issue is restaurant noise, but I have learned about other noise issues, too. When I figured out that the oft-cited 85 decibel standard is an occupational noise exposure standard, and not a safe noise exposure standard for the public, I sent emails and letters to the audiologists quoted in media reports. When I realized that 85 decibels was used as a safe volume limit for headphones marketed for toddlers as young as 3 years, I called this to the attention of pediatricians, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Centers for Disease Control. My efforts, sadly, have thus far been unsuccessful.

My worries were based on theoretical concerns. There was no way that loud noise without a time exposure limit could be safe for children. Now this report documents that the hearing loss I was worried about isn’t a theoretical concern any more. Namely, the news article writes about a study conducted by Erasmus Medical Centre in Holland, in which scientists “studied more than 5,000 children aged nine to 11-years-old over three years, found one in seven of the youngsters had suffered some hearing loss.”

The study is preliminary. The hearing tests were done as part of a study of normal child development in Rotterdam, but not specifically to determine whether personal music player use caused hearing loss. More than 5,000 children were enrolled in the study, but complete hearing tests were available for only about 3,000, and personal music player use was assessed by parental report. Despite these limitations, the study found that 14% of the children, now just under 11 years old, had some type of hearing impairment.

That said, one must ask what is causing this early onset hearing loss. The researchers believe the cause may be children’s use of headphones to listen to portable music players.

Maybe this will spur regulatory authorities into action. At the very least, parents and grandparents can take these headphones away from their little darlings, and give them instead the gift of continued good hearing.

The problem with headphones isn’t just hearing loss. As a parent and soon to be grandparent, I know that talking with children and listening to what they say–almost from the time they are born–is one of the most important ways to teach them words and language, to establish a relationship with them, and to educate them about the world. Giving the child a personal music player or video player and headphones can occupy the child for hours–it’s certainly easier than carrying books and reading them to the child, or giving the child a paper and crayons, or playing with dolls or trucks or Legos–and it allows the parent to watch or listen to his or her own cellphone or personal electronic device, but it probably isn’t the best thing for the child, either.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association board from 2015-2018.

 

How a YouTube-inspired prank ruined a young girl’s life

 

photo credit: Edvvc licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Laurie Redmond writes about how a stupid prank by YouTube “trickster” Rick Lax inspired a miscreant to copy a video the aptly named Lax posted of his “prankster pal,” Ryan Hamilton, blasting his girlfriend with an air horn to get her to put down her phone.  Redmond notes that the video “entitled ‘How to get your girlfriend to put her phone down,’ has an astounding 246m views.” Sadly, one of the viewers was her 12-year old daughter Cindy’s friend’s ex-stepfather, who decided to play the prank on Cindy.

But after this miscreant played his prank, things fell apart for Cindy who eventually was diagnosed with “hyperacusis, or noise-induced pain.” As a result of this “prank,” Cindy has a “burning pain in her ears all the time…[and] [w]ith all noise louder than ordinary conversation, she feels like she is being stabbed in the ear. Her ears ring.”

Redmond has since learned that another “YouTube prankster, an F-list celebrity named Jake Paul, was sued for wrecking someone’s ears with an air horn.”  And yet the air horn “prank” videos remain on YouTube and Facebook, even though they “recently removed Tide Pod challenge videos so as not to encourage dangerous stunts.” Redmond asks what it will take to have these dangerously stupid and vile videos off of social media.  We would suggest litigation might do the trick, while recognizing how terrible things are when the only option is litigation.

A wave of hearing loss in young people is being predicted

and the cause of this epidemic, says Teresa Cowie, Radio New Zealand, is damaging levels of sound from personal audio devices and noisy venues, like nightclubs. Will it really be an epidemic? Cowie cites the World Health Organization, which puts the number of at risk teenagers and young adults at more than a billion. Who are these at-risk young people? Mostly 12-to-35 years olds in well off countries who listen to unsafe levels of sound on their personal audio devices and smart phones.

So how does the WHO and other health organizations know that an epidemic is on the way? Cowie interviewed Peter Thorne, an audiology professor at Auckland University, who said “[t]here are some studies where younger people coming into the workforce, areas where they might take audiograms or do hearing tests – like the military for example – and those studies have shown a proportion of youth coming in with hearing losses.”

Thorne notes that the rules for limits on sound volume are voluntary for the manufacturers of personal audio devices, but the WHO is “currently review regulations around the volume levels devices should be allowed to reach.”

Let’s hope that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies join in the effort to regulate the sound levels on these devices. Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable, after all, and given that there is no effective treatment or cure for hearing loss, anything less than a robust response would be criminal.

 

 

Looking for a quiet place?

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This review of a science fiction horror movie, A Quiet Place, discusses the movie’s basic premise, namely: “Living an isolated existence, the onscreen duo are trying to protect their children from an unseen menace. As the trailer tells us, if they hear you, they’ll hunt you.“

That’s a very interesting premise for a movie, regardless of what the menace is. The hearing sense evolved from a primitive vibration sense, which developed in primitive one-celled organisms to help them either find food or avoid becoming another organism’s food. Humans and our invertebrate, vertebrate, and primate ancestors evolved in quiet, as shown by the National Park Service noise map. And there was no selective advantage to any protective mechanisms from loud noise; in fact, from the external ear to the auditory canal to middle ear and inner ear adaptations, everything possible was done for the human ear to amplify sound.

This is why noise is so bad for humans. And all parents would be wise to protect their children from the unseen menace of noise causing hearing loss.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

 

Nick Foles may have won Most Valuable Player at the Super Bowl last week

Photo credit: Matthew Straubmuller licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

But his daughter stole the Super Bowl limelight in this wonderful picture.

So what does Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles know about protecting his daughter’s ears that most parents and most pediatricians don’t know?

He knows that noise is bad for children’s ears, causing auditory damage including hearing loss.

Football stadiums are among the noisiest places in the U.S., with the noise record exceeding allowable occupational exposure levels, so Nick Foles absolutely did the right thing.

We hope all parents will follow his example.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

The Children’s Case for a Cleaner (and Quieter) World

Photo credit: Robin Loznak, courtesy of Our Children’s Trust

By Rick Reibstein, Co-Founder, The Quiet Coalition

Visitors to this site, we may presume, are interested in the right to quiet enjoyment of where they live. But this right, as with all others, is or is not honored within a context of law, the purpose of which is seen differently by many people. Right now, the U.S. is in the grip of a philosophy of least government. The focus of the current administration is removing regulations, as if they are simply a set of constraints and costs. This is a tragically simplistic view to hold sway in a democratic republic. In these times, it is important for citizens to think more deeply about the purpose of government.

This piece that I wrote for the ABA Journal is about people who have done so. They are children, and they are acting on their beliefs. Their determination to seek what they see as justice in our court system, and the response thus far of one judge, holds important lessons for all of us.

Rick Reibstein is an environmental lawyer.  He teaches at Boston University and serves as co-chair of the Legal Advisory Council for Quiet Communities, Inc.

Cigarette use has dropped sharply among teens

Photo credit: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report in the New York Times documents a sharp drop in smoking by teenagers.

Finally, decades of public health education about the dangers of smoking, restrictions on sales of cigarettes to minors, cigarette advertising, and no-smoking laws, appear to have worked.

Smoking is no longer cool. It doesn’t hurt that increased cigarette taxes have raised the average price of a pack of cigarettes above $6 in the U.S., and as much as $13 a pack in New York City, forcing most teens to choose between smoking and other things they’d rather do.

This report gives me hope that public health authorities can do something to prevent noise-induced hearing loss in teens by educating them about the dangers of noise for hearing; by requiring warning labels on personal music players, earbuds, and headphones; by restricting sales and use to older teens, perhaps above age 15; and perhaps by taxing these devices to fund a federal account to provide hearing aids to those damaged by personal music player use.

A recent editorial in the journal Pediatrics, titled “Adolescent Hearing Loss: Rising or Not, It Remains a Concern,” indicates that the problem is finally getting some attention in the pediatric community. [Note: The Pediatrics link is to a short abstract.  Subscription needed to read the full article.]

The first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was published in 1964. I hope it doesn’t take more than 50 years to protect young people’s hearing.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.