Headphones and Hearing

A Happy or Merry Whatever to you all.  Let’s talk a bit about holiday presents.  Headphones are a frequent children’s holiday gift.  As with anything, we must exercise caution in considering these popular consumer items.  Studies indicate that children as young as 3 use  headphones, 1 /2 of 8-12 year olds and 2/3 of children 13+ use them frequently.

First , a bit of background.  The detrimental effects of noise on one’s ears is a function of both loudness and duration of exposure.  The unit range is not a linear phenomenon.  In other words, 80 decibels (dB) is 2x 70dB and 90 is 4x.  For a point of reference, 100 dB is the sound of a lawn mower and 15′ exposure is considered risky.  The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health indicates that 85dB for 8 hours is the limit for safety in a work environment.

To be safe, headphones are supposed to max out at that 85dB level.  Unfortunately, many models can be cranked up as high as 97-107 dB, including brands that say they don’t.  Note that some MP3 players can reach 120dB–the sound of a rock concert stage; >5′ at that level is considered unsafe. I try to avoid endorsing any specific product brands on this blog, so keep those last facts in mind when choosing a model.  Sites like The Wirecutter and Consumer Reports can be helpful in assessing the accuracy of advertised claims.

As always, I advise parental involvement and supervision as your best strategy for safety.  Encourage your children to listen at 60% volume maximum and for no more than 1 hour.  Check the volume level your child uses yourself.  If you cannot clearly hear what’s being said to you from arm’s length distance then the volume is too high.  Take at least 10′ break for every hour of listening to rest your ears.

Symptoms of potential hearing loss include:

  • ringing, roaring, hissing, or buzzing in ears
  • difficulty understanding speech in noisy places
  • Ears feel muffled
  • Requiring progressively higher volume settings to listen

Please send along questions or comments.  Happy and Healthy New Year to all.


AHA sugar recommendations

In my most recent post I discussed the role of soda as an adverse influence on our children’s health.  So it was with interest that I have noted the fortuitously timed release of updated guidelines from the American Heart association regarding sugar consumption in children.

The AHA recommends:

  • Children > 2 should consume no more than 6 tsp (25gm) of added sugar daily
  • No more than one 8 oz sugar sweetened beverage weekly
  • Under age 2 should avoid consuming any added sugar
  • 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends added sugar maximum of 10% of dietary calories

This position comes from extensive review of literature regarding the effects of sugar intake on blood pressure, lipids, insulin release and diabetes, obesity, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  They found strong evidence supporting links between added sugar and increased energy intake, weight gain, central adiposity (“belly fat”), and dyslipidemia–all known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  Moreover, the correlation of sugar consumption and obesity was dose related across all age groups and was particularly noteworthy in infants.

For perspective, the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) has found that, on average, 2-5 year olds consume 53.3 gm of sugar daily (13 tsp), 6-12 78.7 gm (19 tsp) and > 12 years 92.9 gm (22 tsp!!).  So we have some work to do.

The AHA recommends parents watch food labels for added sugars in the form of fructose, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, honey, lactose, and sucrose.  The group made no recommendations regarding any effects of no calorie artificial sweeteners due to lack of evidence and for similar reasons was unable to draw any conclusions for risk of sugars in 100% fruit juice compared to added sugar drinks.

Many nutrition scientists consider sugar consumption to be like a drug addiction.  Let’s keep that in mind.

So, bottom line: best bet to follow these guidelines is to avoid fast food and processed food–not defrosted out of the freezer or mixed from a box.  Meals from lean meats, fish, fresh vegetables, snacks from fresh fruits, nuts, whole grains.  The more you prepare your meals yourself, the less prepared the snacks, the easier to follow the above and the better and healthier your child’s diet.

Send along questions or comments, and thanks for following.