Q:

Last year I clocked the talent show at my children's elementary school at 90 decibels! Not one child was wearing hearing protection, including my own, only because I had never expected the performance to be so loud! I won't make that mistake again. The school made no attempt to lower the volume or provide hearing protection. The issue was not top of mind for them. On the other hand, there are strict rules about wearing helmets when riding bikes on school trips. How loud is too loud? -- Concerned

A:

The rule of thumb is that prolonged exposure to any noise at or above 85 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss. This is the level of heavy city traffic or a school cafeteria. At 105 decibels, the maximum volume of MP3 players, some hearing loss can occur within 15 minutes. At 110 decibels, the level of a rock concert or loud sporting event, damage can occur after one minute.

We live in an incredibly noisy world, and one that seems to get noisier all the time. Whether it is eating in the school cafeteria or going to a rock concert, a large sporting event or even many restaurants, noise levels are often so high that they can cause hearing loss. And hearing loss is permanent. There is currently no cure, although many foundations are working on one.

Teach your children how to protect their hearing. Many protection options are readily available, such as wearing earplugs or earmuffs, or using volume-limiting headphones in noisy environments. In a noisy environment with a sound level measurement of 85 decibels or louder, your children should always wear hearing protection. And they can protect their own hearing when it comes to personal audio devices by simply turning down the volume and limiting listening time.