Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
The world can be a noisy place to navigate for kids with normal hearing as well as for those who have hearing loss. And while schools and ball fields are a typically a safe environment, equipping your child’s teachers, bus drivers and coaches with a few safety tips can help protect their hearing and give you peace of mind.
Kids with hearing loss
Make a plan for emergencies
Heaven forbid, but if an emergency arises make sure your child knows what to do. Make a plan for weather events or other natural disasters. Talk to them about how to interact with first responders. Give the teacher and the school office written instructions of how to communicate with your child in case of an emergency, especially if you can’t get to the school or their hearing device stops working. Keep a copy of those instructions in their backpack.
Talk to the teacher
Let them know your child has hearing loss, especially if they wear a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Ask if they can have an assigned seat in the front of the classroom so they can read lips if needed. Give them a copy of your emergency plan along with extra batteries, a dry aid kit and cord clips for your child’s hearing device.
… and to the bus driver
Getting on and off the bus might need a bit more supervision if your child is deaf or hard of hearing. If the bus doesn’t stop directly in front of your house and you can’t walk him to the bus stop yourself, see if there’s an older student in the neighborhood who will agree to help him get on and off the bus safely. Plan to meet the bus driver and talk to her about your child’s hearing – before the route begins or after it ends and not in front of other students. Give her a copy of your emergency plan so she knows how to instruct your child should something go wrong. Talk to your child about safely crossing the street before or after getting on or off the bus.
Recess and gym
Running and playing are important for your child’s health, but so is the ability to hear the teacher when the whistle blows. Make sure their hearing aids or cochlear implants are securely fastened while they’re climbing ropes or running bases. In addition to traditional body clips, some parents use fabric tape or body glue to keep the processor in place. Whichever option you choose, make sure you send extra supplies to the teacher.
Sports and extra-curricular activities
There’s a world of activities waiting for your child after school, so make sure they have the proper equipment to play the game safely and competitively. One of the first things you should do is talk to the coach. Let them know your child has hearing loss and how to protect their hearing aid or cochlear implant. It also wouldn’t hurt to give them a copy of your emergency plan.
Kids with normal hearing
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than five million kids have noise-induced hearing loss – one of the most preventable types of hearing loss. If your child has normal hearing, you’ll want to make sure you teach him how to protect it.
On the bus
If your child listens to music or plays games on their personal electronic devices while they ride the bus, discuss at what level the volume should be set. Consider investing in a set of noise cancelling headphones instead of earbuds to protect their hearing from elevated levels of conversation and road noise.
On the playground
Normal city traffic registers 85 decibels (dB), train whistles register 90 dB and jackhammers register 95 dB – all sounds which may be present when your child goes out to play. (According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 85 dB is a permissible daily level.) Visit your child’s playground during recess and assess the environment. If it’s too loud, talk to the teacher and school administrators about your concerns. Tell your child to move away from any noise that hurts their ears, such as whistle-blowing, sirens or noisy traffic, if possible. Provide them with noise-cancelling headphones to wear if necessary.
In music class
Making music is fun, and a great way to boost speech and language development and develop coordination and a sense of achievement. But exposure to loud music is also a good way to permanently damage the delicate hair cells of the inner ear. If your child is a budding musician and plays in the school band, talk to the music teacher about hearing conservation. Do the students wear hearing protection during practice and performances? If not, consider having custom hearing protection made for your child at a local hearing center which specializes in this type of equipment.
Sports and extra-curricular activities
Like recess and gym, school sports programs are instrumental in promoting fitness, teamwork, cooperation and social relationships. School-sanctioned sport programs as well as club sports should provide appropriate hearing protection for children during practice and competition. Baseball and softball helmets should provide protection for the ear and temple; wrestlers should wear appropriate earguards.
Model good hearing health at home
Probably the best thing you can do for your child – regardless of their ability to hear – is to model good hearing health at home. Wear hearing protection when you attend loud music and sporting events or participate in hobbies such as hunting and snowmobiling where decibel levels are high. Keep the volume on your television and car stereo at an acceptable level. Have your hearing tested regularly and discuss your child’s school hearing test results with them. Together, you can conserve and preserve hearing health at home and at school.