When I was a child, I rode my bike every day to visit friends or just for fun around the neighborhood. I never wore a bike helmet. I’m not sure they even existed for anyone but the most serious of cyclers. My parents did not understand the risks of concussion, so they didn’t think to protect me.

Fast-forward 30 years, and I would not dream of sending my children out to ride their bikes without a helmet. I know about the risks of concussion and serious injury when riding a bike without a helmet. How did this change occur?

According to the Bike Helmet Safety Institute, bike helmets for children were first introduced in the 1980s based on a design used by pediatricians to protect toddler’s heads after surgery. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that usage expanded as safety features and design elements improved.

A public awareness campaign in 1999 sponsored by McDonald’s and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also helped raise awareness. Today, statistics about usage vary, but in my neighborhood (and probably yours), bike helmets are ubiquitous.

Just as our parents could not protect us from dangers that they did not understand, our generation is making similar mistakes, but in different areas. I’m sure our children will one day look back and wonder why we did not protect them the way they will protect their own.

There is one thing we can protect against immediately: the risk of noise-induced hearing loss.

This is a serious problem. The incidence of teens suffering from hearing loss is already on the rise. A research study published in 2010 in “The Journal of The American Medical Association” found that, in 2005 and 2006, one in five teens had some type of hearing loss – up significantly from one in seven teens in the 1988-1994 period.


Ems for kids protective hearing earmuffs

Parent Co. partnered with Ems for Kids because kids’ hearing protection should be a no-brainer.


This statistic is probably even higher today. Heavy use of earbuds are likely part of the problem, but so is the exposure to dangerous noise levels at concerts, school dance parties, and other social events.

A few years ago, I clocked the talent show at my children’s elementary school at 90 decibels! Anything at or above 85 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss with prolonged exposure. Not one child was wearing hearing protection, including my own, only because I never expected a school event to be so loud. The school did nothing to lower the volume or provide hearing protection because the issue was simply not top-of-mind for them.

After my experience at the talent show, I sent my kids to summer camp with hearing protection, just in case a similar event occurred. I’m glad that I did, because there was a concert at camp, which they tell me, was incredibly loud. My children wore hearing protection and distributed some to their friends, but the camp did not make any available. Once again, the dangers were not on the radar screen.

How loud is too loud? The rule of thumb: Prolonged exposure to any noise at or above 85 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss. This is the level of heavy city traffic or a school cafeteria. At 105 decibels, the maximum volume of most MP3 players, some hearing loss can occur within 15 minutes. At 110 decibels, the level of a rock concert or loud sporting event, damage can occur after one minute.

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when the sensory cells inside the cochlea of your inner ear are damaged. These cells are very sensitive, allowing us to hear a full range of tones, but they’re also very delicate. When exposed to loud noise, these cells weaken and eventually die. Scientists have not yet found a way to regenerate these hair cells, so once hearing loss occurs, it’s permanent.

The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable.

Follow these steps to protect your children and yourselves

° Turn down the volume

Teach your children to listen to music safely. Try volume-limiting headphones to prevent unintentional exposure to unsafe levels. Or use noise-cancelling headphones to block background noise so you can enjoy music at lower volumes.

° Use hearing protection

Show your children how to wear earmuffs at concerts, sporting events, or other loud activities. There are even earmuffs for babies with interchangeable headband options. Set a good example by wearing hearing protection yourself. Be sure to bring extras to share with friends.

Ems for Kids hearing protection earmuffs

° Move away from noise

The farther you are from loud sounds, the safer you will be. Sit far away from speakers, and if you encounter loud noise unexpectedly, move away as quickly as you can. Decibel reader phone apps are an easy way to measure how loud something is.

It’s never too soon to learn healthy habits. Teach your children about hearing loss prevention early and often. Model safe behavior by protecting your own hearing, too. Together, we can make hearing protection as common as bike helmets.


Ems for kids protective hearing earmuffs

Parent Co. partnered with Ems for Kids because kids’ hearing protection should be a no-brainer.