Most moms check the summer camp photo rolls for glimpses of their children excelling in sports, or being voted the friendliest camper, or starring in the camp play, but my proudest moment was when I saw pictures of my two children, aged 11 and 9 at the time, wearing earplugs at a camp concert! Why do I care, you ask? Because I am a mom with a genetic hearing loss, so I know the importance of hearing protection.
My two children, now 12 and 10, have typical hearing, so far. I first noticed my hearing loss in my mid-20s, so we won’t know if they have an issue for a while. In the meantime, I work tirelessly to help them protect the hearing they have now. In case they begin to have issues later, they might as well start from as strong a point as possible!
When they were young, it was easy to get them to protect their hearing. I didn’t buy them earbuds (or iPods for that matter) and I put the earplugs in myself whenever necessary. Even a few years ago, they were willing to listen to me and use earplugs on their own when I wasn’t there to enforce it, as evidenced by the summer camp photos. But it gets harder every day.
Peer pressure has begun to rear its loud and ugly head so they are less willing to listen to my advice. They still take the earplugs with them to a loud party or sporting event, but the earplugs come home unworn or are “forgotten” in a coat pocket. It troubles me that they are now too “cool” to take care of their hearing. I don’t want them to end up like me, missing the joke when everyone else is laughing, and requiring hearing assistance to enjoy everyday conversation with friends and family.
So what’s a hard-of-hearing mom to do? I hoped that seeing my daily struggles would be enough motivation to keep my children interested in protecting their hearing, but it does not appear to have taken hold. Perhaps I will need to take more aggressive action. No movies, no concerts, no dance parties, unless they wear protection. But that is not really enforceable now that they are older and smarter and can easily take photos of themselves wearing earplugs before crumpling them up to put in their pocket as evidence of their usage.
I think the solution is educating new parents about the risks of hearing loss. Parents can make all the difference by requiring their young children to wear earplugs around loud noise, just like they require their kids to wear sunscreen out in the sun or helmets when riding a bike. If the practice starts early enough in life, it will become routine, and that is how real change can occur.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if children would protect their hearing as an everyday habit? It sure would make this mom’s struggle a little bit easier.
Readers, do you teach the children in your life to protect their hearing?