Expert Advice from Dr. Jones
As we enter the New Year, we look forward to one of the largest sporting events of the year, the Super Bowl. We reflect back on the Philadelphia Eagles unexpected win against the New England Patriots on February 4, 2019. The Super Bowl is a culmination of spirit, celebration and … noise. At the end of last year’s game, Lily, the baby daughter of Eagles Quarterback, Nick Foles, was seen sporting a chic set of pink noise cancelling headphones to shield her ears from the loud noise in the arena. This raises the question of why baby’s ears are so susceptible to noise. The answer becomes clear upon examination of the anatomy of the ear.
Sounds from the outer ear, the ear canal, will cause the ear drum or tympanic membrane to vibrate as bandwidth sounds are transmitted to the amplified 2 to 3 obstacles or middle earbones, the malleus, incus and stapes. From the stapes, the sound reaches the inner ear where the cochlear and auditory nerves are located. The sound transmitted is finally interpreted on the hair cells within the cochlea in response to the noise, triggering the transfer of auditory or sound information to the hearing nerve to the brain.
It’s well-known that prolonged exposure to loud sounds is detrimental to the hearing nerve. However, even short-term exposures to extremely loud volume can leave a baby with permanent hearing damage. Babies’ ear canals are smaller and the hair cells in the inner ears are more sensitive compared to those of an adult. Hair cells are unique in that they are one of the few body cells that cannot regenerate. Therefore, increased sensitivity to sound makes babies more prone to damage, leading to permanent hearing loss.
In some cases, prolonged exposure to loud noises can even affect a baby’s neurologic capacity to interpret sound. The hearing nerves are composed of bundles of nerve cells that run from the cochlea (inner ear) to the brain. When a baby’s ears are exposed to loud noises for a long time, the nerve cells can be stripped of their covering, or myelin sheaths, which function to protect them and allow them to quickly transport signals. With a damaged hearing nerve, a baby can experience permanent changes in their hearing, leading to difficulty in language acquisition.
There are many threats to a baby’s sense of hearing in today’s busy and bustling world, but there are several ways to overcome them. The most obvious solution is to reduce his or her exposure to loud noises. That means hiring a babysitter instead of taking your child to an event such as a concert, a tailgate party, a large noisy get together or fireworks display. However, if you have been living in a location with a great deal of ambient noise such as New York City, or your child is repeatedly exposed to loud environments, it’s time to consider hearing protection equipment. One solution is to purchase noise-cancelling headphones. Though they do not block out at all noise they significantly decrease the harmful sound waves entering a baby’s ears. Sound protection such as noise-cancelling headphones are best utilized when your baby is exposed to prolong periods of extremely loud noises.
If you suspect your child suffering from noise-induced hearing loss, please consider contacting our office for a consultation.
Links to effective noise cancelling headphones for babies:
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