Listen Up! When is Loud Too Loud?

The prevalence of speech sound disorders in young children is 8-9%. By first grade, roughly 5% of children have noticeable speech disorders; the majority of these speech disorders have no known cause. May is Better Hearing and Speech Month! And noise can be dangerous for both you and your children. So, here are some ways to protect your hearing—and the hearing of your children.

Loud volumes associated with portable listening systems such as iPods and CD players, rock concerts, indoor sports events, and video arcades are prevalent throughout our society. Over 10 million Americans have hearing loss because of excess noise exposure. A Zogby International poll indicated that Americans listen to personal audio technology too loudly for too long, and the CDC reported that over 5 million youths exhibit some degree of hearing loss due to exposure to noise at hazardous levels. With the increasing popularity of personal audio technology, millions of adults and children across the United States are at greater risk of noise-induced hearing loss than ever before.

It is important to teach your children to know when loud is too loud. Remind your children that it is too loud if:

  • You must raise your voice to be heard
  • You have difficulty understanding someone who is an arm’s length away
  • You have pain, ringing, or buzzing in your ears after exposure to loud sounds
  • Speech sounds muffled or dull after noise exposure

Below are some quick and easy guidelines you can follow to help protect your family’s hearing:

  1. Be very cautious in allowing your preschooler to use any personal listening device with headsets or any form of earbuds. Before buying any sound-making toy for an infant or toddler, hold it up to your ear. If the sound causes your ear to feel uncomfortable (ringing, buzzing, or muffled speech), either immediately or after a short exposure, then the sound is too loud and the toy should not be purchased. Follow the same rule for toys already in the home and either remove the batteries or discard the toy. I use Fisher-Price’s Kid-Tough Headphones with my kids. These headphones have a built-in volume limiter that automatically lowers high-volume sound.
  2. If you and your children attend rock concerts, do lawn work for extra spending money or to help around the house, or attend indoor professional sports events, please get into the habit of using ear plugs (cotton balls will not protect you). Inexpensive ear plugs that you buy at the pharmacy can reduce the sound by approximately 15–30 decibels and can bring the noise level within a safe hearing range without affecting the ability to enjoy an event.
  3. When planning a large party where there may be a DJ or live band, tell the performers to limit their sound output to 85 decibels.
  4. Have the children turn down the volume on their Wii, Nintendo DS, and Guitar Hero games.
  5. If your children are learning to play the drums, electric guitar, or practice target shooting, have custom earplugs made for them to use when they are practicing or performing.
  6. If you have school-aged children who like to listen to music using a iPod, Discman, or a CD player, use the parental controls, if available, to set the volume at a low level.
  7. Finally, in terms of general hearing health care, make sure that you do not use Q-tips to clean out wax from the ear canal. Remind your children to keep tiny items (beads, Lego pieces, etc.) away from their ears.

Communication refers to the different ways we give and receive messages. Communication involves receptive language, expressive language, articulation, fluency, voice, hearing and pragmatics (social skills).

  1. Receptive Language: the ability to understand what others are saying
  2. Expressive Language: the ability to express thoughts, feelings, and ideas verbally or in writing
  3. Articulation or Phonology: the ability to pronounce speech sounds or speech patterns
  4. Fluency: the smoothness in which sounds, syllables, words, and phrases are joined together when speaking
  5. Voice: the production of sound using the vocal cavity. Areas of vocal production include quality, pitch, nasality and volume
  6. Hearing: the sense that allows an individual to hear what is being said
  7. Pragmatics: the area of language function that embraces the use of language in social contexts: knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it

The most anticipated moment for a parent is the sound of a child’s first words. But what if the words are delayed, jumbled, or never come at all. Speech and language problems can affect early learning and self-esteem. Give your child a chance by seeking proper treatment from a Speech-Language Pathologist. And if you have more questions, leave me a comment.

– Kristina Frimmel, M.A. CCC-SLP, Beaumont Children’s Speech Department

Portions of this post were developed with ASHA member, Frances Santore.

1 Response to “Listen Up! When is Loud Too Loud?”


  1. 1 Anonymous May 5, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Kristina, Thank you for this wonderful article! Great info, plus a nice reminder for us parents.


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