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Have I Damaged My Child's Ears?

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 14 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Have I Damaged My Child's Ears?

Q.I'd like some advice please. I have just set off my house alarm by mistake, whilst holding my 3 year son. The alarm control unit was about 1m away and its siren is rated at 100DBa. I think he was exposed to the siren for a couple of seconds. He obviously cried at the shock, but I'm worried that the sound has damaged his ears (although he seems to be able to hear normally and is not complaining of painful ears). Please could you help?

(Mr G Cole, 6 September 2008)


Hearing Damage

First of all try not to worry, although the ears are very delicate it normally takes prolonged exposure to cause any long term damage unless the noise is exceptionally loud. A normal house alarm that emits a sound of 100dBA is unlikely to have caused any damage (otherwise it would need to carry a warning on the packaging informing the public of this risk). Most experts do agree that the potential for damage to the ears is around 80dBA and unfortunately we are exposed to sounds greater than that practically everyday. They also believe that most of us will suffer from some degree of hearing loss in our lifetime and sometimes this will be permanent and we will not even be aware of it.

The average volume of music in a normal nightclub reaches around 120dBA and this is only thought to pose a risk when long term or regular exposure occurs. A gunshot is around 140dBA and short sharp exposure to this level of noise is thought to pose a significant risk.

Exposing your son for a few seconds of house alarm is unlikely to cause any damage.If however he does start to display symptoms of damage such as not hearing his name, sitting nearer to the television, being unable to talk quietly or even if there is any fluid or visual damage to the ear please seek medical advice.

My advice is to rethink about the location of the house alarm as it seems to be in an inappropriate place. If you can have your child is sat on your knee and the device is only 1 metre away this suggests that it could benefit from finding a more suitable home. The bottom of the stairs is always a favourite as it can be heard from both upstairs and downstairs and is out of the way of the living room where people spend most of their time.If this is not an option, perhaps the furniture in the room could be rearranged though this does seem like drastic action.

Unfortunately we live in a world where we are constantly are risk from outside sources and although we can do almost everything to protect ourselves and our children from harm, sometimes it just isn’t that easy.

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