Babies are sensitive: we cover them up before putting them in the sun, we measure the temperature of their food and bath water, and we should be protecting their ears too. It may surprise you to learn: a baby’s ears are even more sensitive to loud noises than an adult’s. In fact, everyday appliances like a food processor, loud television, and the lawnmower can cause lasting damage.
There are advantages to hearing protection too. A baby with sore ears is a crying baby. By protecting your baby’s ears, you reduce the likelihood of tantrums and tears (protecting your own ears in the process!)
In this guide, we’re going to be talking about different ways of protecting your baby’s ears. We’re going to deal with direct hearing protection, white noise machines for soothing a room, and protecting your baby’s ears in the water. We’ll also have some guidance for babies with grommets. Of course, we’re talking about babies here, not toddlers: these are products that are great for under twenty-four months.
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Due to the sensitivity of a baby’s ear canals, earplugs aren’t the best choice for infants or toddlers. In fact, we wouldn’t recommend earplugs for any baby until they start to swim, and even then only something gentle, made of silicone, stretched over the entrance to the ear (we’ll come to that!) Instead, a pair of baby earmuffs are your best choice for protecting a baby’s ears. They ensure a sound fit, will stay attached on even the most mobile of baby, and are sensitive and comfortable for their delicate heads. We’re going to look at two: the Banz ® Baby and the Earjobs JOEY ® Noise Cancelling Baby Earmuff. Both of these are specially designed for a baby’s ears, they’re perfect for 3-24 months.
The Banz Baby Earmuffs are rated to NRR 31dB, this means they’re going to block out 31 decibels of noise when properly worn. This is among the highest level of sound rating you can get in an earmuff and effective at bringing even loud gardening machinery to a safe range. The manufacturers advise them for use in cinemas, at sporting events, or just in any loud group setting likely to cause irritated ears.
Alternatively, the Earjobs JOEY ® is rated to SNR 22dB. While this is a lower degree of sound dampening, it has the additional capacity to allow your baby to remain aware of ambient noise. This can be particularly useful in situations where you want your baby to still appreciate the ambient environment, but at a safer register. You retain all the excitement of a fireworks show, without any of the damage. It’s made from hypoallergenic, babysafe materials, so good particularly for babies with sensitive skin. It comes with a carry case, as well as decorative stickers, all to make the earmuffs more fun and more stylish.
Unique to baby earmuffs too is a consideration of how a baby sees the world. Both the Banz and the Joey have no small removable parts, which means no choking hazard, and are also constructed without protruding parts -- nothing your baby can get caught on. In terms of colouration, the Banz have six styles and the Joey three: ample opportunity for your baby to express their sense of style.
In our first section, we talked about earmuffs as a solution to protecting your baby’s ears, but sometimes you want to create a soothing atmosphere for your baby. For example, for families living on a loud intersection or with noisy neighbours, a pair of earmuffs are not a permanent solution, particularly when you’ve got your baby in their cot. This is where white noise machines come in.
A white noise machine works by creating a soothing mask of sound, covering the disruptive external atmosphere. The Hushh has three separate soundscapes to choose from: bright white noise, deep white noise, and soothing surf. The consistency of the noise can supplement the hushing noise you might make while soothing the child to sleep, by creating this kind of atmosphere it can mitigate overnight wake-ups and help your baby sleep smoothly through the night.
The main advantage of the Hushh, however, is portability. It can be clipped onto the pram or stroller and taken with you wherever you are: any room can be transformed into a portable nap palace with the Hushh. A built-in amber coloured night light can additionally assist in creating the right soothing atmosphere for sleep.
While we’ve previously argued against earplugs for babies, there’s one key exception: swimming. Babies are particularly prone to ear infection or ear irritation and you’ll certainly hear about it when their ears are sore. A properly fitted pair of silicone swimming earplugs can mitigate the risk of ear irritation when bathing or in the pool, by creating a helpful barrier that keeps bacteria and water from entering the ear.
This is particularly important for children with grommets. For those who don’t know, grommets are small tubes that are surgically implanted into the eardrum, preventing the chronic build-up of fluids or pressure that lead to constant ear infections. The only downside is you have to be particularly careful about water in the ear, necessitating a well-fit pair of swimming earplugs when showering or swimming in the pool. For those considering grommets for their child, or wondering about their maintenance, we have a dedicated guide here.
With babies, you want to be extra careful with how you apply the swimming earplug. The earplug should definitely not be allowed to enter the ear canal, but should rather be shaped over the entrance of the ear, allowing you to get all the advantages of the barrier without irritating your baby’s sensitive ear canals. Ensure hands are clean prior to insertion and change the sets regularly.
Like the Baby Banz, the Putty Buddies come in lots of fun colours. They can be paired with a swimming headband, such as the Ear Band-It Ultra, to ensure they stay in while your baby is in the pool.
In this guide, we’ve outlined a few different approaches to protecting your baby’s hearing. In them, you’ll find solutions for some common maladies such as ear infections or noise-induced tantrums. Better still, all of these solutions are portable: they can go with your baby wherever you do. The most important thing is to remain aware of your surroundings. Sounds that might not bother you can be ruinous to your baby’s hearing: protect their ears so they can enjoy their hearing for years to come!
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