Tag Archive: tech

Don’t let unsafe use of tech and toys ruin your children’s hearing

Photo credit: Dark Dwarf licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Don’t let unsafe use of tech and toys ruin your children’s hearing. That’s the message the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is sending to parents this holiday season. This article from a New Jersey radio station features ASHA’s associate director, audiologist Paul Farrell, who warns that loud noise from toys and headphones can cause hearing loss, which in turn affects academic, social, and economic success for the rest of the child’s life.

That’s why protecting a child’s hearing is so important.

Parents and grandparents should heed Mr. Farrell’s warning. After all, a child’s ears have to last her or him an entire lifetime.

And I’ll add a warning to the advice Farrell gives: Headphones advertised as “safe for hearing” using 85 decibels as a volume limit are not safe for hearing. The World Health Organization recommends only one hour at 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA)* to prevent hearing loss.

The 85 dBA standard is derived from occupational hearing regulations and doesn’t protect all exposed workers from hearing loss. It’s not meant as an exposure level for the general public, much less children.

I think you will agree that a noise exposure standard that won’t protect factory workers or heavy equipment operators is far too loud for a child’s delicate ears. So this holiday season, avoid tech and toys that play loud sound and give your kids the gift of continued good hearing.

*A-weighting adjusts sound measurements for the frequencies heard in human speech. A-weighted decibel readings are approximately 5-7 decibels lower than unweighted measurements.

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’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

How 3D printing could help treat a rare form of hearing loss

Photo credit: Jonathan Juursema licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

We are always happy to hear about tech solutions that may help those with medical conditions like hearing loss, particularly as there is no known cure or effective treatment for hearing loss today. So reading about how University of Maryland Medical School researchers are looking at 3D printing “to create implants for ossicular conductive hearing loss” is exciting. No doubt this is thrilling news for the 3%-5% of people who suffer with this form of hearing loss.

But one hopes that the desire to find and adopt a tech solution for everything doesn’t distract us from an inarguably cheaper and simpler solution for dealing with future hearing loss cases. Namely, limiting the number of people who suffer with noise-induced hearing loss and other hearing conditions by reducing noise to preserve natural hearing.

Today, the only treatment available to people who have hearing loss is hearing aids, and as Dr. Daniel Fink, Chair of The Quiet Coalition, has written, hearing aids are a poor substitute for natural hearing. So a better solution for people who already have hearing loss is welcome news, but let’s not lose sight that we can take steps now to reduce the numbers of people with significant hearing loss without spending a lot of time and money looking for a technical solution.

As for what you can do to protect yourself and your family this holiday season, think about throwing a pair of ear plugs in the kids’ stockings and lowering the volume of holiday music. Give them a gift that will last a lifetime.