Living with noise-induced tinnitus, which usually comes with a certain degree of sensitivity to noise, can be challenging at times.
Becoming a parent is a wonderfully transformational life experience. It also represents a challenge to those with tinnitus, since new-borns will often make quite a bit of noise that tends to be hard to anticipate.
I am living with noise-induced tinnitus, coupled with a fairly severe sensitivity to noise, and when I recently became a father I went through a period that was tough on my ears. I would like to share my experience and hopefully provide you with some useful tips on how parents with tinnitus should behave around screaming babies.
The easiest and most effective way to avoid having your ears hurt by erratic screams would be to wear earplugs 24/7. Depending on the type of earplugs used and how you feel about wearing them – inevitably, earplugs come with a sense of isolation – you can choose to what extent you decide to wear earplugs when around your child.
During the first year of my child’s life, I eventually found a way to deal with it. It has by no means been a perfect ride and, on various occasions, my ears were hurting due to having been surprised by loud screams in situations when I wasn’t wearing any ear protection.
I would like to give the following recommendations in terms of how to best protect your ears while enjoying life with a new-born.
1. During the first few years of a child’s life, you will naturally not be able to expect your kid to show empathy and consideration to you and your tinnitus. Up to the point when you will be able to get your child to understand why he/she should be careful about screaming around you, you will need to work out other solutions together with your partner.
2. It is essential for you to clearly communicate with your partner to make sure that he/she truly understands what your tinnitus means in practice, so that he/she can instinctively and quickly step in and help you out when difficult, noisy situations arise.
3. It is important for you to wear ear protection whenever necessary so that you don’t run the risk of further damaging your ears. The first period of a child’s life will often involve a lot of screaming, but remember that it’s temporary so keep focused on not further damaging your ears while thoroughly enjoying the magical first phase of your baby’s life.
4. While it’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, a lot of tinnitus sufferers may still feel conscious about openly using ear plugs or ear muffs for others to see. That feeling may especially come alive when dealing with your baby. You may wonder what people will think of you as a parent if you need to use ear plugs to protect yourself from your kid’s screaming. It may lead to ignorant people making jokes about you behind your back. Of course, those people are the ones in the wrong. You not being able to cope with the screaming without protection because of your handicap by no means reflects anything about your capability as a parent. Keep focused on engaging with your baby while protecting your ears and don’t waste any time caring about what others around you may think.
5. Try to understand your baby’s behavior in order to anticipate the situations when he/she tends to get extra loud. E.g. if you learn that loud screams of joy comes when playing, then pre-empt the situation and insert a relevant amount of ear protection before playing. Depending on the severity of your tinnitus and the loudness of your child, choose the protection with the right level of decibel reduction.
6. If you wish to enjoy spending as much time as possible with your baby without the perceived isolation of wearing ear protection, then have a pair of ear muffs close-by. Whenever he/she starts to get loud, then you can quickly pop on the ear muffs without the extra time needed to insert ear plugs. The downside of this solution is that you will sometimes be exposed to loud noise before you manage to put on the ear muffs. In cases when you will not be picking up your baby, a quicker solution will be to just use your fingers to cover your ears.
7. If you would rather want to be safe than sorry and wear protection throughout extended periods of spending time with your child, then it’s highly recommendable to get a pair of custom-molded ear plugs with a decibel filter that reduces the noise in a linear fashion, allowing you to hear your child in a more natural way while being protected from the most damaging noise levels. Commonly, you will be able to choose between filters that reduce the noise by 15 decibels, 25 decibels etc. Custom-fitted ear plugs are comfortable to wear and they don’t make you feel as isolated as with other types of ear protection. The downside is that you won’t receive the same level of protection as with e.g. foam ear plugs and ear muffs.
8. It’s very important for you to take care of your ears during the, generally speaking, pretty loud baby phase. Hence, it is well worth the investment to buy multiple pairs of ear plugs and ear muffs. If you e.g. know that your baby sometimes screams very loudly while changing diapers then always keep a pair of ear muffs handy in the bathroom. If you have experienced outbursts of prolonged screaming while traveling in the car, then keep some fresh ear plugs or a pair of ear muffs with a high level of noise reduction inside the car. And so on.
9. When visiting friends and family, communicate clearly with them about your tinnitus condition and how they could be of help if you were to be in a situation when your baby is noisy without you having protected your ears. Don’t underestimate how much your loved ones would like to help you out so make sure to enable them to take some burden off your chest when stressful situations arise.
10. Having tinnitus means that noise will be extra stressful to you. In order to care for your baby in a solid, non-stressed way, don’t hesitate to take the extra time needed to put on ear protection before you start to console your child. It is safer for your ears and it will be safer to handle the situation without the stress that the noise will cause due to hurting ears.
I hope these tips will be helpful to you in your new-found role as a parent in order to save your ears from being more damaged. If you have some additional tips not mentioned here, please comment below or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In terms of ear protection, I recommend – and personally use – the following:
Good luck and enjoy the magic of parenthood!
Photo Credit: sawamur