Too much noise: One in every eight children shows signs of impaired hearing

International Noise Awareness Day 2015: Noise protection from the very start

a young boy with headphonesClick to enlarge
Noise is not only annoying, it can cause health problems, especially in children and young people
Source: a.k. /

Street traffic, neighbours or aircraft noise: one in every two people in Germany feels disturbed or annoyed by noise. Children and young people also suffer from noise – often with sometimes grave consequences. Not only can noise hamper language development, reading ability and mental performance, young people in Germany frequently report a ringing in their ears which resembles tinnitus after extreme noise exposure. According to the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), one in every eight children misses at least one audio frequency in a hearing test. The reasons are unknown, although loud music, in particular when listened to with headphones, is thought to be the culprit. On this year's International Noise Awareness Day, which is campaigning under the motto Lärm – voll nervig! (Noise - totally annoying!), the Federal Environment Agency and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Akustik (DEGA e. V.) are targeting children and youth in particular with information about noise and its effects. UBA has a new interactive publication for pupils in the third and fourth class (title: Akustik & Lärm), available free of charge.

The new publication teaches pupils what the human ear looks like, what functions it performs and how to behave appropriately when communicating with deaf people. The workbook also has instructions for crafts projects, for example a can and string telephone or an audio memory game. There is also an accompanying teachers booklet.

As early as 2009 the Federal Environment Agency determined that noise exposure starts in childhood, based on its evaluation of the German Environmental Survey 2003-2006 for Children. In the German Environmental Survey one in every twelve children ages 11-14 reported that night-time street traffic noise is an annoyance, and one in every six claimed the same for daytime noise. One in eight children (about 13% of the 8-to-14-year-olds participating in the survey) could perceive at least one of the tested sound frequencies only at very high volume. Hearing loss was more than 20 decibels (dB). 2.4% of the children experienced a hearing loss of as high as 30 dB in at least one of the test frequencies. During the 2003-2006 survey period UBA assessed the pollutant and noise exposure of 1,790 children between the ages of 3 and 14 from 150 towns in Germany.

One major cause of hearing damage in children and youth may be loud music played in clubs, discos or through headphones. Ringing in the ears (temporary tinnitus) occurs in children in particular after listening to loud music: 6.3% of the 8-10-year-olds had complaints as did 11.1% of the 11-to-14-year-olds. The ringing in the ears can often last for several hours. Children and youth should therefore take precautions to protect themselves against noise. Ear plugs can help during long periods of exposure to loud noise. It is best not to listen to music with headphones at maximum volume – and stereo equipment should be set to play at moderate volume whenever possible.

Umweltbundesamt Headquarters

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

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 noise  noise annoyance  hearing damage  impaired hearing  International Noise Awareness Day