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Hearing Conservation for Infants

Dr. Cindy Leeb, Au.D., and Dr. Emily Martinson, Au.D., Ph.D.

In past weeks we have discussed the importance of using hearing protection whenever around loud sounds.  Although our conversation has been tailored to adults in the past, little ears need protection, too.  Today, I’d like us to focus on protecting your baby’s hearing.  That’s why I’ve invited fellow audiologist (and new mom!) Dr. Cindy Leeb to join in our conversation this week.  My comments this week will be in regular text, and Cindy’s will be in Italics.  Take it away, Cindy!

Infant Hearing

For those of you who do not know me I am the Audiologist in the Rockville office of Live Better Hearing and can sometimes be found in some of our other locations filling in. I have been with Live Better Hearing now for two plus years and love working here. I completed my Doctorate in Audiology at Northwestern in Chicago where I was born and raised but moved to Maryland in 2014 after getting married to a native Marylander.

In May of this year I had my first child, a sweet baby girl named Emily (No, she is not named after Dr. Martinson). She loves attention and is a very smiley happy baby. I hear from other moms that I am lucky because she does not wake up too many times during the night. She is now almost 6 months old.

There are many situations where little ears can be exposed to big sounds.  Interestingly enough, babies can hear some sounds even in the womb.  That’s why expectant mothers and fathers are encouraged to talk to the baby before birth, and why the baby seems to know when his or her parents are speaking.

I was definitely a mommy who talked to my tummy all through pregnancy and am now the mommy walking around constantly narrating my life to my child. Every new experience for her is a learning experience so why not make the most of it?  She definitely is content to listen to me and her daddy talking and is not a fan of silence. If she starts fussing when I’m cooking dinner after work I just narrate what I’m cooking/doing and that calms her right down. She likes being part of the conversation and now when we talk to her we are rewarded with her cooing and babbling back.

After birth, babies are at just as high of a risk of noise damage as their parents.  Although your baby probably isn’t going to loud heavy metal concerts, some unexpected situations can be very loud, including weddings, parties, and family gatherings.

Recently my family has attended two weddings with Emily. Both weddings included live bands and lots of noise. One of the first purchases I made on my own for Emily even before she was born was hearing protection in anticipation of these weddings. Some babies would not be tolerant of things on their head and knowing this I played with her in the weeks coming up to the weddings putting her hearing protection on and taking it off so she associated it with a happy game. When time came for the weddings she happily left them on for the whole party. I had many people come up to me and ask me questions and I welcomed them because we do not always think about those little ears around us and how much sound can affect them.

There are several ways to protect your baby’s hearing at parties and family get togethers.  The easiest is with commercial hearing protection.

For infants and toddlers, it is important to purchase over the ear hearing protection with an adjustable band. It is also important to look at the ages listed on the packaging.  Over the ear hearing protection for adults will come with an adjustable band that is too large for a small child, so it is important to consider the child’s age and size of the child’s head when searching for the right protection. When trying hearing protection on a child it is important to make sure the muff portions fully encase a child’s ear so that it cannot be seen poking out underneath. Lastly, it is important to make it a fun experience. Whether it is getting them used to the hearing protection at home before they need to use it or allowing an older child to choose the color they want to order it in the more fun it is, the more likely they are going to use it and continuing using hearing protection as they grow.

Make sure that the hearing protection has a nice snug fit to offer maximum protection.  Party on, baby!