Ear defenders for children

by | Mar 1, 2024 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

What you need to know about hearing protection for children

What are ear defenders?

Ear defenders are a form of hearing protection. Typically, they look like headphones, which sit on the ears. They are designed to limit the amount of sound that reaches the ears, usually to prevent any risk of damage to a person’s hearing or sometimes to provide a more pleasant listening experience if loud environments are not tolerated well.

When would you use ear defenders?

Ear defenders are often used for work purposes, for example, construction workers using noisy machinery or people working at music events. They are used to prevent the risk of hearing damage due to loud sounds. Two factors influence the potential risk to hearing from loud sounds. The first is the actual level of the sound, usually expressed in a decibel scale (dBA) and the second is the duration that a person is exposed to the sound. For example, being exposed to sound at, say, 85 dBA for 3 hours generates the same risk as being exposed to an 82 dBA sound for 6 hours. Using ear defenders will reduce the sound level, allowing much safer exposure to sounds.

How loud is too loud for my baby/toddler?

If we look at adult health and safety levels at work, in general, sounds above 80 dBA become potentially harmful, with sounds above 85 dBA requiring hearing protection. For babies and toddlers, due to some smaller ear geometry and its interaction with sound waves, the sound levels generated in the ears are often higher than those generated in an adult’s ear (from the same external sound). This means that babies and toddlers are potentially at more risk than adults from the same external sound level. That said, a baby or toddler would have to be exposed to these levels for a considerable time for them to cause damage to their hearing.

Levels of sound in swimming pools, for example, are typically 75 -80 dBA, which, if only exposed to for an hour or so, should not prove problematic. Cinemas can typically produce 80 – 90 dBA, which, again, if limited in duration, is usually fine. But if a baby or toddler attends a music event, for example, the sound levels there could reach 90 – 100 dBA, which, if exposed to for a few hours, could be harmful for both adults and their children.

As a rule of thumb, if sound levels prevent you from hearing a person next to you talking, then there is some potential for risk to hearing. Many apps allow for easy monitoring of noise levels, and these can be helpful in assessing the environment that a baby/toddler is in. Certainly, when sounds reach 80 dBA or higher, parents should be aware of this.

For some children however, they may have a temporary hearing loss and the sounds that they are hearing are actually quieter than for everyone else. Glue ear can reduce hearing and this can easily be tested for  – see children’s hearing tests.

What age can you use ear defenders from?

Using ear defenders is possible as soon as a baby has head control. Some babies will pull off anything you put on their ears or head, so my advice, if planning to use these at a music event, for example, would be to use them at home first, to familiarise their baby to them.

What should I look for when buying ear defenders for my baby/toddler?

There are several factors to consider when buying ear defenders. First, the sound attenuation rating. This is often provided as a dB number, for example, 25 dB. This would mean that, on average, the reduction of sound levels would be around 25 dB. Thus, if attending a music event which was, on average, 90 dBA, then the sound level would be reduced to 65 dBA when wearing the ear defenders. The second factor to consider is the weight of the ear defenders. The lighter, the better, so you do not feel uncomfortable. Lastly, the aesthetics of the ear defenders. In the past, the choice of colours has been limited to blue or pink. Thankfully, more manufacturers are realising that parents would prefer more choice regarding their children.


If you are concerend about your child’s hearing, speak to our Paediatric audiologist for some advice. 0113 8730444


Book an appointment with our audiologist