CHOC ENT study finds kids more often exposed to loud noises, infrequently use hearing protection

A new study co-authored by a CHOC Children’s otolaryngologist finds that nearly a quarter of U.S. children are at increased risk for hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds and infrequent hearing protection use.

Dr. Jay Bhatt and his co-authors examined the incidence and gender differences in pediatric recreational and firearms noise exposure in the United States. The study, published in the May 2019 issue of the otolaryngology journal “Laryngoscope,” is the largest evaluation of loud noise exposure patterns and the use of hearing protection in children to date. 

Drawing on data gathered by the National Health Interview Series (NHIS), the study makes several key findings:

  • The most common source of recreational noise was personal music players, now used by up to 90% of school children
  • One in five children have been exposed to firearm noise, with boys significantly more likely to have exposure than girls.
  • Only 16% of children always used hearing protection in the last 12 months during explosive sound exposures, and girls were less likely to use protection than boys.
  • Up to 96% of parents perceived their children to be at no to minimal risk of hearing loss from excessive noise.
  • The prevalence of pediatric loud noise exposure is the likely cause of the noise-induced hearing loss noted in one in five adults ages 20 to 29.

The gender disparities found by the study underscore the importance of hearing protection education to not just boys, who are more frequently exposed to loud noises, but also girls, who are less frequently exposed but less likely to wear hearing protection, the authors write.

Further, public health initiatives could identify children and families at risk for loud noise exposure and provide appropriate counseling to prevent hearing related consequences as adults.

Learn more about otolaryngology at CHOC Children’s.