People often wonder about the best type of hearing protection for babies, children, and adults. There are many options to choose from at retail stores and online. But most people don’t know age makes a difference for who should wear hearing protection, and what type is right for different ages. For example, hearing healthcare professionals don’t recommend hearing protection for babies and infants. Children under 12 shouldn’t use earplugs except types individually recommended by hearing healthcare professionals.
Hearing Protection Style by Age
Less than 3 months old
- Avoid taking infant into noisy environments.
- Soft spot (fontanelle) on baby’s skull hasn’t hardened yet. Hearing protection including earmuffs not recommended.
- If unavoidable, make sure earmuffs seal or touch against head around ears (no chunks of hair or glasses in the way) and are not too big for baby’s head.
3 months to 3 years old
- Avoid taking infant or child into noisy environments.
- Only use earmuffs or hearing protection professionally fit or recommended by an audiologist or hearing healthcare professional.
Age 3 +
- earmuffs that seal snugly comfortable around outer ears. No braids or chunks of hair or glasses in the way. Safety supply stores have special pads for glasses to fit so earmuffs still seal. If possible, get recommendation from audiologist or hearing healthcare professional.
- earplugs recommended or professionally fit by audiologist or hearing healthcare professional.
Age 12 +
- earplugs that snugly comfortably completely seal off ear canal entrances.
- earmuffs that seal snugly comfortable around outer ears. No braids or chunks of hair or glasses in the way.
For all ages, fit of earmuffs or earplugs is the most important consideration. Noise travels in sounds waves like water. Earmuffs must seal completely around the ears, and earplugs must be inserted properly so they completely block the ear canals. Never stretch out the band of earmuffs to loosen them up. This breaks the band tension so the earmuff doesn’t seal properly. This means sound waves can slip past and hurt hearing health.
Hearing protection must fit like swim goggles.Jan L. Mayes (2019)
Built In Emergency Fingerplugs
Sometimes people are out and about with no hearing protection handy. If you can, use your index fingers to plug your ears. This protects hearing similar to earplugs. It’s handy for short term unexpected loud noise, e.g. flyovers at airshow, loud sound at school or in public, etc.
Never teach children to clap their hands over their ears if sound is too loud. Always teach children to use their fingerplugs.
Won’t protect hearing
Helps protect hearing
Modern Hearing Protection
For more information on modern hearing protection, read my blog High Fidelity Ear Protection. Examples include products that let you hear, enjoy music, or talk as needed even for noisy environments like concerts, sports events, hunting, etc. Noise damages our built-in high fidelity stereo hearing systems. Making them work like low fidelity stereo systems with uncomfortable noise and static (hyperacusis, tinnitus) and distortion (impaired speech in noise performance, hearing loss). This is completely preventable by using properly fit hearing protection for babies, children and adults. Protect everyone’s right to healthy hearing and communication.
Featured Image: Michelle Mosier on Pixabay.
Image child hands covering ears by Ulrike Mai on Pixabay.
Image adult fingers plugging ears from Pixabay.
Jan L. MayesMSc, Aud(C), RAud
Author, audiologist, educator, quiet activist, playing with words.