About Sound Choices

Sound Choices™ is an outreach and educational project designed by CHSC Senior Audiologist Dr. Laura Brady to teach children about hearing conservation, the hazards of loud sound and the long-term effects of exposure to loud sound.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a hearing wellness program like Sound Choices important?

According to the National Center of Disease Statistics, 5.2 million children between the ages of 6-19 years have hearing loss directly related to noise exposure.

C’mon, these are kids, do we really need to worry about this now?

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can be instantaneous and caused by just one single exposure to a very loud sound (like a firecracker or gunshot). NIHL can also be caused by cumulative exposure to loud sounds which gradually build over time to cause the hearing loss. So, even though hearing loss due to loud sound may not be evident in the childhood years, NIHL may be present later, in teenagers or early adulthood. Any reduction in the overall lifetime noise “dose” will be good for hearing in later years.

With the ever growing popularity of personal music players, video games, and noisy electronic toys and devices, today’s children are being exposed to louder sound levels than previous generations. Many current listening devices use an earphone worn in the ear, making it more difficult for authority figures such as parents and teachers to monitor the true listening level of the device being used.

MP3 players can generate dangerously loud sound levels - more than 125 decibels. Older listening devices operated on disposable batteries and had a relatively short listening ”life”. Newer devices operate on rechargeable batteries, which can operate for over 20 hours between charges making it easier to increase the overall consecutive noise “dose.” Also of concern - these devices seem to be becoming more and more popular among younger children. It is not unusual to see 5- and 6-year-old children using them.

Does sound affect everyone’s ears the same way?

Some people’s hearing is more “tender” or “fragile” than others. These individuals seem to be naturally, or genetically, more predisposed to noise-induced hearing loss.

Can doctors treat noise induced hearing loss (NIHL)?

Physicians cannot “fix” permanent hearing loss. Once damage has occurred, there is no medicine, shot, exercise, or operation to fix it.

Don’t hearing aids “fix” hearing loss?

As the term hearing“aid” implies, hearing aids assist hearing—they do not correct hearing loss.

If I only listen to loud music occasionally, is it safe?

The louder a sound, the shorter the safe listening time. And, it doesn’t matter what type of music you are listening to - it is the loudness of sound and how long you listen that count!

How can I tell if a sound is too loud?

Any sound that causes your ears to “ring” (tinnitus) is too loud. Tinnitus (pronounced tin-uh-tus or tin-night-us ) can be thought of as your body’s way of saying “Overload! This is too much sound!”

Any sound that causes your ears or hearing to feel stuffy or muffled is too loud.

If you’re somewhere noisy and you have to shout to a friend for them to hear you, it’s too loud.

Any sound that causes pain is certainly too loud.

If your friend is listening to music with ear buds and you can hear it from three feet away, it’s too loud.

What can I do if I think the sound is too loud?

Move away (if you can).

Put a barrier between you and the loud sound. Close the window, close the door, muffle a noisy toy by putting masking tape over the sound speaker.

Use ear protection. Since sound travels most efficiently in air, to effectively reduce sound, you must stop air. Unfortunately, some people think that placing balls of cotton in their ears effectively stops sound, but it does not. Earplugs give ear protection. They are inexpensive and readily available at most drugstores. All earplug packages will have written on them a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) value, which shows the amount of sound reduction provided. The higher the number, the more reduction provided. Remember though, the earplug is only as good as it is inserted! Some people find it easier and more comfortable to use hearing protection earphones. These types of earphones (sometimes referred to as “shooters muffs”) are available at many sporting goods stores, hardware stores, and of course, online.

Turn it down. If you are using earbud-type earphones and someone arms reach away (about three feet) can hear it, it’s too loud and you should turn it down!

Use noise canceling earphones. These allow you to set the volume at a safe level, even if you are somewhere noisy.

Limit your listening time. Remember, the louder the sound the shorter the safe listening time!

Cover or plug your ears. For short, unexpected loud sounds, push the little flap in front of your ear canal (tragus) backwards to seal the sound out.

What is the organ of hearing called?

The cochlea is the small, bony, snail shell shaped organ of hearing. Inside each cochlea are about 16,000 microscopic hair cells called cilia that move in the fluid waves.

How do you measure pitch?

Pitch is measured in units called Hertz (symbol “Hz”), named after a famous German scientist, Heinrich Hertz, who lived in the 1800s.

How do you measure loudness?

Loudness is measured using a scale called the decibel (symbol “dB”). The decibel was named after the American scientist and inventor Alexander Graham Bell.


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