UNNOTICED NOISE AROUND US ARE IMPACTING OUR KIDS AND TIPS TO OVERCOME IT
As adults, we can train our minds to selectively process the sound signals it encounters, i.e. we can remove the meaningful from the unwanted. We can easily ignore the background noise or the noise from the construction going next to our house or the constant chatter in the coffee shop and yet, be able to concentrate on a book. Hence, some noises go unnoticed by us. However, for a kid, it is very different, particularly babies. In contrast, a child (especially infant) hears almost every sound; as it has not yet developed any mechanism to filter the sounds and get meaning out of it. Nor does it have the ability of selective attention.
Even before a neonatal baby can see, it hears. A 24-week fetus has tiny ears, starts to perceive different sounds (or noise), and by 26 weeks starts responding to them as well. The most significant sound for a baby is the sound of its mother. Hence, the parents should start to keep a check on the noise around their kid. So that negative impact of noises can be mitigated.
➢ A study has found out that exposing an infant (1-12 months) to elevated levels of hospital sounds including loud and unpredictable noise from extraneous sources such as alarms, ventilators, phones and staff conversations, to which preterm infants are especially vulnerable can have negative impacts like:
● Increased blood pressure
● Sleeping problems
● Aggressive behavior
The best way to overcome this could be shifting the mother and child to a different hospital altogether, to avoid the elevated ambient noises in general. Children delivered at home should be kept in a calm and sound environment.
➢ Now let us talk about toddlers, preschoolers and grade-schoolers. Even though your neighborhood can usually be calm, it can become unnoticeably noisy for the kid. It could be a couple fighting next door, ongoing repair work, recent construction work etc. Such noises can cause distress to the child. If the noise is loud, e.g. drilling, airplane landings, firecrackers etc., it might even lead to hearing impairment, cardiovascular diseases, annoyance and sleep apnea for the kid. It must be mitigated at the earliest to reduce serious health impacts as an adult.
➢ The best way to tackle loud and intrusive sounds (construction work, firecrackers) would be to temporarily relocate until the sound-producing cause is removed. It might sound extreme but even relocating permanently makes a huge difference. Especially, when you live near a factory, aerodrome or the like. Installing soundproof windows, sound-friendly flooring, and thick curtains can also help.
➢ It is not unusual that some children may be sensitive to noise, e.g. noise from vacuuming, noise from toilet flushes, people talking loudly, honking from land vehicles etc. Typical behavior of a child may include running away when a certain noise is heard, keeping hands on both the ears, crying, and anxiety attacks. A parent must keep track of the noises that affect their kid and notice if the pattern is prominent. A visit to a doctor can help them ascertain certain symptoms as well.
➢ Noises can also be any sound that the child finds distracting and could result in annoyance or even emotional trauma. It could be a startling sound, children crying in the house, people chatting etc. that prevents the child from concentrating, makes him/her irritable, induces aggression etc. These spell trouble for the child and it must be tackled with the following:
● Noise cancelling earplugs definitely help.
● If the sound comes from the floor below, then use a carpet made of noise reducing composite material.
● Even having a dedicated quiet place built in the house helps.
● Invest in sound friendly furniture that absorbs noise.
● Do wall-to-wall carpeting.
As good parents/caretakers to a child, we must put ourselves in their shoes and think as to what can cause discomfort to them. It must always be kept in mind that they are much more sensitive than adults are and have a limited thinking. In general, people must be vigilant and attentive to the child and their reactions to different situations.