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Safe Sound Indicators To Help Save Kids' Hearing

2nd May 2010

Safe Sound Indicators To Help Save Children’s Hearing

The National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) is placing 20 prototype Safe Sound Indicators (SSIs) in early childhood centres in Auckland as part of a pilot programme to address noise induced hearing loss in children and their educators.
A NFD survey of 65 kindergartens, playcentres and Kohanga reo last year revealed that 20% of children had been affected by a high level of noise, demonstrating behaviours from putting their hands over their ears to being so distressed they cried. Over one third of teachers reported buzzing/ringing in the ears from time to time and hearing loss which they believed could be a result of years working in a noisy environment.

The NFD recognised the need to educate children and parents on hearing preservation and with the help of funding from philanthropic organisations and donors, has designed and developed a simple traffic light type Safe Sound Indicator for early childhood centres.

Louise Carroll, CEO of the NFD says this exciting project is urgently needed to address the incidence of hearing damage in both children and educators through repetitive exposure to excessive noise.

“The roll out of this pilot programme to 20 early childhood centres will give us the opportunity to gather more data through questionnaires that will be completed at regular intervals over a six month period, looking at children’s behaviour, noise levels and any other relevant issues.

“We hope to have Safe Sound Indicators in every early childhood centre in New Zealand within three years,” says Mrs Carroll.

The SSIs are a simple noise meter with a green/yellow/red lighting system that immediately alerts teachers and children to their noise levels so they can take action. The lights are calibrated to decibel levels – 80 dB’s (green), 85 dB’s (amber) and 90 dB’s (red). Continued exposure to sounds over 85dB leads to permanent hearing loss and brief exposure at this level may cause temporary hearing loss.

Audiologists and sound experts will evaluate the questionnaire data with a view to being able to measure the success of the sound indicators and provide early childhood centres with specific solutions to their sound issues.

Mrs Carroll says that while the output of noise from the children is being measured, early childhood centres also need to look at the acoustical implications of their buildings.

“Using carpet on floors or acoustic tiles on walls and ceilings can have a dramatic effect on controlling noise build up and sound quality. A lot of the reverberation can come from hard surfaces and poorly designed rooms, says Ms Carroll.

The initiative is welcomed by Dr Sarah Farqhuar of education and parenting research group, ChildForum.

“The Safe Sound Indicators are the best aid available to assist teachers to monitor noise levels and help children to control their noise. Many early childhood centres are wanting to implement changes to improve noise levels for children and with a combination of acoustic treatments and the Safe Sound Indicator they should be able to achieve this,” concluded Dr Farqhuar.

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