Hearing Loss Facts: Tips for Teaching Kids about Hearing Health

Last update on Oct, 30, 2019

Children are wonderfully curious. If you’ve just started wearing hearing aids, chances are your kids or grandkids will want to know all about those mysterious little devices in your ears—why you wear them, what they do, if they can play with them ...

Older kids may already understand the basics of how hearing works, but how do you explain the concept of hearing loss to a young child? And how can you guide children to more effectively communicate with you?

Talking to kids about hearing loss will help them understand your experience, improve communication and strengthen your bond. It will also encourage them to practice healthy hearing habits at an early age. Here are a few creative ways to teach kids about hearing loss facts and hearing aids—plus tips for hearing aid safety with little ones. 

“What’s that thing in your ear?”

As children are taught never to put small objects in their ears, they will likely have some questions when they observe you doing just that. Use these strategies to help them understand what hearing aids are for and how they work:
  • Tell them some ears need help hearing, and that you don’t hear as well as you used to. Talk about how the small machines you put in your ears make sounds louder so you can hear all the sounds you love, like their laughter or singing.
  • Kids love to explore with their hands. Though you’ll want to keep curious little fingers from tinkering with your devices, you can appeal to their curiosity by letting them hold a hearing aid in their hand. Point out the microphone, receiver, etc., and describe how all the different parts work together to process and amplify sounds.
  • It may not be a good idea to let them wear your devices, but you can still show them what it’s like to use hearing aids. Play them their favorite song or video through headphones with the volume nearly all the way down. Increase the volume to demonstrate how hearing aids also increase the volume of sounds. 
  • Make a megaphone to demonstrate how hearing aids amplify and direct sounds. (Fun fact: the earliest hearing aids were actually quite similar to megaphones.) 

Hearing aid safety with children

Hearing aids have tiny parts that can easily be damaged, misplaced or swallowed. If you spend time around very young kids, practice these safety tips:

  • Explain that hearing aids are not toys and will only work for your ears. 
  • When they aren’t in your ears, keep hearing aids stored out of reach in a case or humidifier.
  • Store hearing aid batteries out of reach to prevent small children from sticking them in their ears or swallowing them. If a child swallows a battery, call the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333 immediately.
  • Protect hearing aids at the pool and during other summer water activities.  

Activity: Hearing loss simulation

Telling children you don’t hear well is one thing—but showing them what it’s like to have a hearing impairment can help them better understand your experience. Here are some simple, relatable ways to demonstrate what it’s like to have hearing loss:

  • First, explain that bodies change as they grow older, and age can cause people to lose their hearing. Talk about other common causes of hearing loss—most importantly, noise and the importance of protecting your ears.
  • Have them tightly cover their ears with their hands. In a soft voice, ask, “Can you hear me?” Then, have them remove their hands and speak at the same volume. Explain that when someone has hearing loss, noises can sound much quieter than they actually are, so it’s important to speak up and speak clearly.      
  • Turn the TV and/or music up to a high volume and speak in a normal voice. Ask if they can hear and understand everything you are saying, then turn down the background noises so they can hear you more clearly. Tell them that too many loud, distracting noises can make it difficult for you to understand them when they talk. Encourage them to get your attention and minimize distracting noises before speaking to you so you don’t miss a word.
  • Play a game of Telephone to show how whispering can make it hard to understand a message, and to demonstrate the importance of good hearing for understanding what someone says.   
Hearing loss simulation Explore more

Activity: What do you like to hear?

Build kids’ awareness of different types and levels of sound with this fun activity. Explore different sounds around the home or yard—the blender running, an alarm clock beeping, leaves rustling in the trees. As you study each sound, ask if they think the sound is “good,” or pleasant to hear, or “bad,” unpleasant. Ask them to explain what they like and don’t like about each sound. 

Example sounds:

  • Birds chirping
  • Wind chimes
  • Dog barking
  • Lawnmower
  • Vacuum
  • Piano, guitar, drums
  • Baby crying 
  • Silverware scratching against a plate

Say a child points out that they don’t like the sound of the blender because it’s “too loud” or “hurts their ears.” You can explain that very noisy sounds can actually damage our ears and lead to hearing impairment. Teach them to cover their ears around very loud sounds (or even better—gift them a set of earplugs).

Activity: How loud is too loud?

For this activity, have the kids help you measure the intensity of different sounds to see which ones are too loud. Download a free decibel meter app, such as Decibel X or NIOSH Sound Level Meter (these allow you to accurately measure sound levels through your smartphone’s microphone). Explain that a decibel (dB) is a unit used to measure the loudness of a sound, just as we use the unit of pounds to measure weight and inches and feet to measure length. Near total silence measures at about 0 dB, a whisper is around 30 dB and a normal-volume conversation is around 60 dB. Any sound above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.

Seek out a variety of sounds around the house or neighborhood and use the app to measure decibel levels. Note which ones fall at or above 85 dB. 

Noise measurement of common sounds:

  • Whisper: 30 dB
  • Normal conversation: 60 dB
  • Lawnmower: 90 dB
  • Plane taking off: 120 dB
What Is loud? Decibel chart guide to hearing safety Explore more

Fun facts: Animals with good hearing

Does your son, daughter or grandchild adore animals? Share these fun, hearing-related facts to spark their interest in learning more:

  • Rabbits have long ears to help them hear sounds from very far away.
  • Dogs can hear sounds from four times farther away than humans can.
  • Cats have super-powered hearing—up to five times better than humans—and can point their ears in any direction. 
  • Elephants have the biggest ears of any animal. They can hear sounds from up to 6 miles away.
  • Snakes don’t have ears. Instead, they “hear” with their skin by feeling vibrations in the ground.
  • Crickets’ and grasshoppers’ ears are located in their knees! 
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