Are public hand dryers too loud for kids?

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High-speed hand dryers in public restrooms are a convenience with an annoying side effect: they are loud!

Are they loud enough to dohearing damage to a child who is standing right next to it? The short answer is no. While hand dryers can be quite loud, it won’t cause hearing damage unless you’re right next to it with the dryer running non-stop for 7 minutes. If you’re a few feet away from it (like in a stall or at a sink), the time increases even more.

One researcher who has studied this (Dr. John Drever of Goldsmiths University) added,

 I have been informed by many parents that their children are terrified by the sound of high-speed hand dryers, and as all caring parents of young children will know, the last thing you want to instill is a link between discomfort and toilets.

Public toilets tend to be quieter than other public spaces so the shift between the quiet to the noise of a hand-dryer can be startling especially when unexpected. Even a flushing toilet can be a surprise – and uncomfortably loud (kids under the age of 5 perceive sounds louder than adults). It’s no wonder restrooms are a source of stress or fear for some kids!

Tips to help a child who’s scared of sounds in public restrooms

  1. Look for a family or unisex restroom. A smaller space may not be as loud as a large, reverberant restroom with lots of stalls. Some malls and public places even have restrooms with play areas and small toilets for kids.
  2. Use another sound to “mask” the loud sound (the ear will adapt so it won’t seem quite as loud). Plus, listening to music or watching a video might help take their mind off it.
  3. Carry earplugs or cover their ears with your hands.
  4. If your child is afraid of auto-flushing toilets, you can put something over the sensor (like tape or a post-it note) so it won’t go off until you’re ready.

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