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How to Encourage Your Little One to Wear Hearing Protection
As parents, we protect our children from everything we possibly can – helmets, overly-warm winter coats, and of course sunscreen. So why is it that hearing protection is so often overlooked? Having two young boys and living in the beautiful state of Colorado, my family spends a great deal of time outside. From a very young age, my kids have been in the mountains, on bike rides or 4-wheeling. Every possible precaution I could make to keep them safe is always my top priority, but hearing protection was not added to my arsenal until after my first son was a toddler. When he was around 18 months old, we took him to see the fireworks on the 4th of July. I hadn’t considered the impact that the loud sounds of the fireworks would have on him – it was never really a discussion or a concern within my circle of parent-friends. Luckily the scared look on his face was enough to make me react quickly after that first firework went off, and I was able to cover his ears so he could enjoy the rest of the show. After that night, finding a way to protect his little ears was on my mental checklist of ways to keep him safe.
By the time my second son was born, we already had hearing protection available and it was more common to see earmuffs on children of any age. This photo is my youngest, enjoying the fireworks at the park with his earmuffs. He never seemed to mind the earmuffs, although I think this is because he associated them with fun events (fireworks, going into the mountains, etc.) from a young age. Many children who are new to hearing protection will likely protest, however, there are now products out there that are designed specifically for children of any age (yes, that includes infants).
There are two general types of hearing protection: ear plugs and earmuffs. For younger children/babies, earmuffs should be used for hearing protection as they are not only safer, but you can clearly see when they are on properly. Here are some tips for integrating earmuffs for your little one:
· If possible, try to integrate hearing protection early on. If your child has the opportunity to get used to wearing earmuffs before they are old enough to audibly protest, you have a greater chance of them wearing earmuffs in the future.
· Do NOT make it a game! As parents, we naturally try to make situations more exciting for our children, but if you make wearing hearing protection a game (i.e. taking them on and off repeatedly to make them smile and forget about the fact they have something on their head) what will most likely happen is they will continue this game, removing the earmuffs during the most inopportune time.
· Set realistic expectations. If you have a noisy event next weekend and expect to introduce hearing protection on the spot, you will likely struggle. Although earmuffs are comfortable, they are still new, and depending on the age of your child they will most likely need some time to accept this strange device and understand what is going on. Try introducing the earmuffs daily and gradually, starting with less than a minute and eventually working your way up to a longer time span. However, be aware of the surroundings when you are doing this. If the earmuffs are preventing them from experiencing what is going on around them at the time (i.e. if they were playing with a singing toy, or watching a cartoon), they will most likely not cooperate.
· Involve them. If your child is a little older, have them help choose the hearing protection. It is, after all, an accessory and there are fun colors and patterns that can help to get them on board. One of my favorite brands for children’s hearing protection is Em’s for Kids. The Em’s 4 Bubs Earmuffs are designed specifically for babies (newborn to 18 months), have a soft (Velcro!) headband that helps to disperse pressure, and weigh only 100 grams. Plus, the colorful and interchangeable headbands make it fun for everyone (who doesn’t need a stars & stripes headband for the 4th of July?!). For children over 18months, EM’s makes the EM’s 4 Kids Earmuffs, which fit their growing heads and weigh only 190 grams. Plus, they can be folded up and easily fit in the palm of your hand (or tossed into a backpack/purse).
Even with two boys who regularly wear mismatched clothing, they want to be involved in adding anything that could possibly be considered an accessory. EM’s 4 Kids offers the ideal design that allows you to easily integrate hearing protection for your child, plus the fun designs and colors for kids of all ages. Regardless of the brand that you choose, make sure that the size is appropriate for your child’s age, has an acceptable NRR (Noise Reduction Rating), and that they have a chance to get used to them before any event or activity where the earmuffs will be required.
If you are on the fence about introducing hearing protection at all, I encourage you to research the impact of noise and how that may result in hearing loss for your child. There are many situations where the noise level may be too loud for your child, and being prepared is always helpful as a parent. The Better Hearing Institute offers A Guide to Your Child’s Hearing that includes a lot of helpful information.
If you have questions on how to choose the best hearing protection for your child, or more tricks on how to get your little on to cooperate, please contact us!