Pre-school teachers are creative people who have a demanding job. Drying tears, tying shoes, book reading, and multitasking is just a few of the duties performed by these remarkable individuals. Now, there is considerable concern that these people are at an increased risk for sound-induced auditory fatigue. This type of fatigue involves the temporary loss of hearing ability after exposure to sound. The temporary loss could become permanent in the absence of an acceptable recovery time.
Auditory fatigue happens when the ears receive overexposure to an audio stimulus for an extended period. When the ears are overexposed to a sound stimulus, the hair cells inside the ears receive damage. To prevent further damage, the threshold to loud sounds increases causing the blood vessels to constrict. The result is less blood flow to the hair follicles within the ear causing temporary hearing loss. The symptoms of sound-induced auditory fatigue include:
According to new research, seven out of ten female preschool teachers experience sound-induced auditory fatigue. Add to that the findings that one out of two has problems understanding speech and four out of ten are hypersensitive to sound and you will see there is a real problem. This occupational group is at a much higher risk than the general population for auditory fatigue. Worse, there are no clear solutions to the question of excessive noise in a preschool classroom.
4,718 female preschool teachers took part in the study. Out of this group, 71% reported auditory fatigue, 46% encounter trouble understanding speech, and 36% have ear pain from everyday sounds. Worrisome is the fact that the loud voices and screams often contain relevant information that a teacher must be able to hear. Unlike environmental noise, children are not a device that can be just turned off due to noise. The intense sound of a preschool classroom makes it difficult to screen out relevant information from background noise. It is this environment that triggers the symptoms of sound-induced auditory fatigue. There are risks for other problems including headaches and tinnitus. The researchers conclude that sound levels in preschool classrooms must come down to spare the hearing of preschool teachers.
Listening takes effort and can physically and mentally drain an individual. Solving the problem of auditory fatigue among pre-school teachers is complicated. Hearing protection devices can serve as an intervention if a reduction in sound level is not possible. Room designs and room acoustics receive consideration as possible solutions to this problem as well. If you are a preschool teacher experiencing auditory fatigue, be sure to take breaks to let your brain relax. Voice your concerns to school administrators. If a hearing loss is involved, schedule an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional today.