Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 April 2020

Loud cinema soundtracks can hurt young ears, experts warn

With the advanced sound systems found in most cinemas meaning the soundtracks to some films can hit 85 decibels, doctors have said that these levels could cause hearing impairments to children later in life.
Stacey Turnbull with her daughters Amelie, 8, left, Imogen, 14 weeks, and Isla, 5. The British mother who lives in Abu Dhabi’s Al Reef Villas area says she took her child to the cinema when she was only a few weeks old. Christopher Pike / The National
Stacey Turnbull with her daughters Amelie, 8, left, Imogen, 14 weeks, and Isla, 5. The British mother who lives in Abu Dhabi’s Al Reef Villas area says she took her child to the cinema when she was only a few weeks old. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // Parents taking very young children to cinemas might be putting them at risk of permanently damaging their hearing, medical experts said.

With the advanced sound systems found in most cinemas meaning the soundtracks to some films can hit 85 decibels, doctors have said that these levels could cause hearing impairments to children later in life.

Dr Ahed Bisharat, a consultant paediatrician at Healthpoint Hospital, said: “Every time we take our children to the movie theatre, we increase their chances of hearing impairment.

“Noises above 85 decibels are very harmful to infants and children’s ears because at this high level they can cause damage to the cochlea in the inner ear.

“Noises above 100 decibels sustained for 15 minutes can cause permanent hearing loss in paediatric patients.”

The duration of the noise and the number of times children were exposed to loud noises over time were also a factor, he said.

He believed there should be regulations in place to reduce sound levels for films aimed at children.

Dr Bernard Hoffmann, consultant in otorhinolaryngology at Healthpoint Hospital, agreed there were dangers with loud film soundtracks.

“Exposing toddlers or young children to loud noise and not wearing any ear protection, like ear plugs, will cause future hearing impairment.

“By damaging the ear with frequent high volumes, damage to the cells needed for hearing and speech perception will occur and the child’s rate of development will decrease.”

Mohammed Rafeeq, chief development officer at CineRoyal Cinema, said the volume of movies was reduced during children’s films.

“We would advise all parents not to expose their infants to conditions that may affect their health, and at the same time consider giving time to themselves to have a good movie experience,” he said.

CineRoyal puts on special screenings of films for mothers and youngsters every Sunday and Tuesday, during which the volume is decreased, lights are not dimmed as much and the air-conditioning is kept at a higher temperature so that babies do not get cold.

Rawan Ghalayini, 29, from Lebanon, said she would not take her nine-month-old baby to the cinema because the sound was too loud.

Katy Lynch, a British mother, said she used to love going to film screenings for children in the UK because the lights would stay on, the volume was not too loud and everyone was there with babies and toddlers, so no one got annoyed with the extra noise.

Stacey Turnbull, another British parent, said she took her child to the cinema when it was only a few weeks old.

“I don’t think the volume is too loud,” she said.

“Neither of my older children have ever complained and my 12-week-old slept through the Minions movie until the last half an hour.

“When she woke up she sat quietly on my lap watching the movie.

“My 12-week-old loves the cinema and we usually try to time it when she is due for a nap or a feed because this settles her,” said the mother of three.

arizvi2@thenational.ae

Updated: September 21, 2015 04:00 AM

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