Noise   and   Its
                                                      Effects   on
 Children often

 participate in


 activities that

 can harm  their


 These activities include
 attending music concerts
 and sporting events,
 fireworks, playing with
 noisy toys and video games,
 and listening to personal
 music players. Because
 of excessive exposure to
 noise, an estimated 5 million
 children suffer from Noise-
 Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).
 In addition, noise exposure
 can harm a  child's physical
 and psychological health.
 This fact sheet offers
 information on:
 • adverse health effects
  of noise on children
 • steps to prevent these
  harmful effects
 • ways to identify whether
  your child has hearing loss
   United States

What Is Noise?
Noise is defined as any unwanted or disagreeable sound and is often dismissed simply as
a "nuisance." However, noise can become harmful when it interferes with a child's normal
activities, such as sleeping or talking, or disrupts or diminishes a child's health or quality
of life.

Measurement of Noise
Noise, like all sounds, is measured by the intensity and frequency of the sound waves that
hit the ear. The unit used to measure the volume of sound is the decibel (dB). The greater
the number of decibels, the louder the noise and the more harmful it is to your ears.

How the Ear Works
The ear is divided into three parts-
—the outer ear, middle ear, and inner
ear—that work together to  enable us to
hear sound.
• The OUTER EAR acts like a funnel to
 direct sound waves from the air to
 the eardrum (tympanic membrane).
• Sound causes the eardrum to vibrate,
 which causes three bones (malleus,
 incus, and stapes) in the  MIDDLE EAR
 to move mechanically.
• The middle ear then sends these
 mechanical vibrations to the INNER  EAR
 (cochlea), where they are picked up by                             Eustachian ™>e
 small sensory hair cells and sent as electrical
 impulses along the auditory nerve to the brain. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is
 caused by damage to or  loss of those tiny hair cells after prolonged exposure to high
 levels of noise or sudden high-level (impulse) noise, such as a fireworks explosion.

Adverse Health Effects
  Noise can pose a serious threat to a child's physical and psychological health,
      including learning and behavior. For example, noise can:
       INTERFERE WITH SPEECH AND LANGUAGE. Repeated exposure to noise
        during critical periods of development may affect a child's acquisition of
         speech, language, and language-related skills, such as reading and listening.
           IMPAIR LEARNING. The inability to concentrate in a noisy environment
              can affect a child's capacity to learn.
                IMPAIR HEARING. Tinnitus, often described as a ringing or buzzing
                sound in the ear, is a symptom associated with many forms of
                hearing loss.
                 NIHL is a permanent hearing impairment resulting from
                 prolonged exposure to high levels of noise or by sudden high
                     level (impulse) noise.

United States Environmental Protection Agency | Office of Air and Radiation
EPA-410-F-09-003  | | November 2009
                Washington, D.C. 20460
DISTURB THE CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM. Elevated blood pressure and other cardio-
vascular ailments can be found in children who are chronically exposed to loud noise.
DISRUPT SLEEP. Noise can awaken a child or disrupt his or her sleep patterns.
Minimizing the  Risks
Take the following steps to protect your child from the physical and psychological
effects of noise:
• Instruct him or her to walk away from sources of loud noises.
• Limit the amount of time spent on noisy activities.
• Lower the volume.
• Have your child's hearing tested if he/she routinely participates in noisy activities,
  such as playing an instrument or attending concerts or sporting events.
• Ensure that he or she wears child-sized hearing protection, such as
  earplugs or earmuffs, during noisy activities and events.
• Create a quiet learning and sleeping environment.

When to Seek Help
Consult an audiologist (a person who tests and measures
hearing) or an otolaryngologist (a doctor who treats diseases
and problems of the ear, nose, and throat) if your child
experiences any of the following symptoms:
• Asks people to repeat themselves.

• Regularly hears ringing, roaring, or hissing sounds.
• Speaks loudly or raises voice to be understood by
  someone standing nearby.

• Does not react to unexpected loud noises.
More  Information
EPA's Office of Children's Health Protection
and Environmental Education is working
to protect children from environmental
hazards, through risk management and
prevention strategies, education, and
research. For more information, visit
For information on noise pollution, visit:
Office of Air and Radiation
Noise Pollution Clearinghouse

Additional  Resources
American Speech-Language-Hearing
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Hearing Conservation Association
National Institute for Occupational Safety
and Health
National Institute on Deafness and Other
Communication Disorders
Children & Noise, League for the Hard of Hearing,

Efforts Aim to Curb Number of Kids Who Suffer From
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss, American Academy of
Audiology, January 16, 2008,

Noise Effects Handbook: A Desk Reference to
Health andWelfare Effects of Noise, U.S. EPA,
Office of Noise Abatement and Control, July 1981,

Bronzaft, A.The Effect of a Noise Abatement Program
on Reading Ability, Journal of Environmental
Psychology, 1981.

Dangerous Decibelsฎ,Types of Hearing Loss,

Evans, G, Hygge, S, and Bullinger, M. Chronic Noise
and Psychological Stress, Psychological Science, 2006.

Griefahn B, Spreng M. Disturbed sleep patterns and
limitation of noise, Noise Health, 2004;6:27-33.

Noisy Toys Can Be DangerousToo, December 10,

Recommendations for a Noise Standard,
       ) Printed on 100% recycled/recyclable paper
        with a minimum 50% post-consumer waste
        using vegetable-based inks.
                                                  Listen  Up
                                                  Noise Induced Hearing Loss
                                                  (NIHL) is preventable.
                                                  Some toys (talking dolls,
                                                  musical instruments, etc.)
                                                  can emit sound that can be
                                                  hazardous to children.
                                                  Personal music players (iPod,
                                                  MP3, etc.) should be played at
                                                  low levels. If you can hear your
                                                  child's music, that might mean
                                                  it's too loud. Turn down the

                                                  Sound Thermometer
                                                  (Courtesy of Dangerous Decibels)
                                                  The noise levels (in decibels)
                                                  on the thermometer are
                                                  approximate as measured at
                                                  a typical listener's distance.
                                                  Use this sound thermometer to
                                                  judge your or your child's noise
                                                  exposure. Noise levels at 85 dB
                                                  or above can be harmful to your
                                                  hearing and require protection.
     Rocket Launch

1 65 12-Gauge Shotgun


     Fireworks, Gunshot

135 Jet Plane (from 100 ft.)
 '*•*' Ambulance, Jack Hammer

 lib Leafblower, Rock Concert
     Walkman, Tractor
Gas Mower, Hair Dryer

Busy City Traffic

Washing Machine

Typical Speech

Softest Sound
You Can Hear