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Why is protecting our children from excessive noise so important?

 

"Young people and little children are the most sensitive to noise." 

"After birth, the younger and smaller a child, the greater their sensitivity to loud sounds, and the lesser their natural defences against them."

"Parents often disregard the harmful effects of noise to which young children are exposed. When I see how carefree young mothers take their children to noisy places, such as picnics with music, or outdoor concerts, I always approach them and make them aware of the danger of excessive noise.".

 

These are just a few quotes from the interview with prof. HENRYK SKARŻYŃSKI, director of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, and the creator of the World Hearing Centre, one of the most outstanding specialists in the field of otosurgery in the world, published in the bimonthly “Słyszę" journal, September / October 2013 (5/133/2013).

Below are more extensive fragments of the interview. The full content of the article can be found under this link.

 

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"SŁUCH: Professor, why should we "turn down the volume?” Are only loud sounds a threat to us?

PROF. HENRYK SKARŻYŃSKI: Noise is an unpleasant and unwanted sound, causing irritability and fatigue, harmful to the whole organism, especially hearing organs. It causes inferior learning performance, difficulty in focusing, disorientation, and even headaches and dizziness; it also increases blood pressure. In everyday life, we most often experience environmental noise, especially communication noise. This noise was "gifted" to us by the development of urbanization and communication. But we ourselves are none the wiser. The noise that we create "at our own request" also has a harmful effect on the human body. I am referring to the noise produced, for example, by users of motorcycles and customized cars, or noise in schools.

Listening to loud music is also a great threat.

(...). The hearing of a young person stunned with sound coming from headphones plugged deep into the auditory canal, or sound emitted by large loudspeakers at a concert, will probably return to normal after some time, but research conclusively shows that repeated periodic loss of hearing sensitivity gradually translates into permanent loss.

However, not only noise is the proverbial bane of our times. Although the influence of sounds with the lowest frequencies (so-called infrasounds) and vibrations on the human body has only recently been studied, it is known that a high level of infrasounds with frequencies in the range of a single hertz can in some cases even lead to cardiac arrest. However, hearing is under the greatest threat here. Noise has a direct effect on the middle and inner ear, indirect effect on the nervous system and the brain, and, on the principle of reflex, on other organs.

SŁUCH: What are the effects of noise?

HS: Moderate and loud noise has an effect in the form of a temporary increase in the hearing threshold, i.e. periodic loss of hearing sensitivity. One might call it "temporary deafness"; it subsides after a few minutes, hours or even after a few days, depending on the dosage of noise - its level and time of exposure. As I have already mentioned, repeated episodes of decreased hearing lead to permanent hearing loss. In addition, silent sounds, which are no longer heard for this reason, are replaced by white noise, whining, or ringing. Our hearing hates the vacuum and its loss triggers the brain impression of receiving missing sounds, called tinnitus. This is one of theories of the formation of this quite common phenomenon, which has its strong justification in the results of research on people with hearing loss.

SŁUCH: Who is most endangered by noise?

HS: Young people and small children are the most sensitive to noise.

(...). The hearing organ of the fetus is shaped and begins to function from the 21st week of pregnancy. The child already shows uneasiness related to excessive noise in the mother's womb. After birth, the younger and smaller a child, the greater its sensitivity to loud sounds, and the lesser their natural defences against them.

(...). Parents often disregard the harmful effects of noise to which young children are exposed. When I see how carefree young mothers take their children to noisy places, such as picnics with music or outdoor concerts, I always approach them and make them aware of the danger of excessive noise.

Studies show that even noise-producing toys, commonly available in stores, can cause hearing damage. (...). Thanks to maintenance-free monitoring stations installed in two Warsaw schools, noise levels reaching 110 dB were diagnosed, mainly during breaks. And yet, the level of 85 dB is considered to be a safe level of sound! Researchers have shown that noise at 110 dB impairs hearing  after just an hour, lasting for the next 8 hours, and consequently can lead to permanent damage. Under the influence of such noise, normally-hearing children behave as if they had a central hearing disorder. Some of the information provided by the teacher does not reach the child, which may reduce their attention and learning performance, and cause irritation. "