There is some suggestion, but no firm evidence, that high levels of noise are more damaging to babies than adults. It is a good idea for parents to be aware of this, and to be careful about exposing babies to high levels of noise.
But it can be tricky to judge how much noise is too much.
About noise levels
Noise is measured on a scale called the decibel scale – dB(A). This scale reflects the sensitivity of the human ear to different levels of sound.
Action on Hearing Loss gives the following examples of sound levels:
20 dB(A) is a quiet room at night
60 dB(A) is ordinary spoken conversation
80 dB(A) is shouting
110 dB(A) is a pneumatic drill nearby
130 dB(A) is an aeroplane taking off 100m away
Effects of noise
If you are exposed to sounds over 80 dB(A), Action on Hearing Loss advises that your hearing can be damaged.
This can happen because high noise levels can damage the sensitive hair cells in the cochlea, which is the inner ear. It can result in temporary hearing loss.
If exposure to the noise is prolonged or repeated, hearing loss can become permanent.
It is thought that babies’ hearing may be even more vulnerable to loud noises than that of adults, although it’s not clear why this is the case. More research is needed in this area.
It’s therefore best for parents to protect a baby’s hearing by avoiding exposure to loud noises – both at home and when out.