Tiny ears, big concern

As professional listeners, acousticians are trained in the dangers of noise-induced hearing loss, which is both cumulative over the years and basically irreversible.  Still, nearly anyone with ears understands that loud noise is bad for hearing, and has probably felt the after-effects of noise exposure after a rock concert or a night out.  But what about people too young to understand, or to recognize the physical sensations caused by overexposure?

This week, the New York Times examines the need to protect babies and young children from overexposure to noise.  Noise that is uncomfortable to an adult can be physically damaging to a child, whose smaller ears receive sound pressure with greater impact and sensitivity.  Protecting young ears usually requires earmuff-style protectors, since earplugs are ill-fitted to small ears (not to mention a choking hazard).

The article overlooks the danger of noise exposure from mass transit (including the hometown New York City Subway).  Subway noise levels at the platform can exceed 100 decibels near a curved track or express train—a level that will damage even adult hearing with frequent exposure.  Parents that frequently use the subway with their children should take steps to protect them from noise, since even slight hearing damage as a child will be carried for a lifetime.

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