I recently found out that a 13 year old girl, Nora Keegan from Calgary, Canada, had conducted a piece of research to test whether the volume of electric hand dryers were detrimental to children’s hearing.
She’d noticed that her own ears would start ringing after using certain dryers, and decided to test her hypothesis. She visited over 40 public washrooms and used a professional decibel meter to measure sound levels of hand dryers from various heights and distances.
Now I don't know about you, but there are occasions when I find the noise from those things almost unbearable, but what I hadn’t taken into account was that I’m a grown woman, not hugely tall I’ll grant you, but my ears are a lot further away from the source of discomfort than children’s are.
I’d never thought of it. I spend a great deal of my life trying to put myself in the child’s position, physically and emotionally, to try and better understand how we can improve inter-generational communication and relations, and there are still day to day things I miss. I know I’m not alone, it’s difficult to keep remembering that our children are experiencing things in a completely different way to us.
Nora found that Xlerator and two types of Dyson Airblade dryers both exceed 100 decibels. Health Canada does not allow toys for children to be sold over 100 decibels, but the loudest dryer she recorded was 121 decibels.
Nora’s findings have been published in the Journal of Paediatrics & Child Health, so hopefully they will spur on companies to do something about this.
As for us, we should be ever vigilant. Sadly not every child is as resourceful, capable and confident in their abilities as Nora, so it falls to us to get down and see, hear, feel, experience things from the child’s perspective - both actually and metaphorically - rather than guessing or just not bothering.
In this case Nora’s work may have an impact on whether or not children will be able to hear us in the future - and that’s a very strong metaphor indeed.
My recent visit to Estonia included a weekend off, and during that time, I did some Yoga and Pilates classes. I don’t speak the language, but I nevertheless found it relatively easy to follow instructions. I think this reflects some important points about basic levels of communication.
People-watching sure can teach you a lot. When I'm on a trip, I spend a fair amount of time observing how other guests treat the hotel staff. Some are polite, but removed, others clearly see beyond the role to the human doing the job, and some are just downright rude. I find myself wondering if there is a parallel here with how they treat children and young people.
So what are you scared of? Do you want your children to be frightened of that thing too?
In evolutionary terms, we can understand the benefits of learning from our parents which creatures to avoid or run away from, and this holds true even nowadays when it comes to stroking lions or using crocodiles as stepping stones. Most of us, however, live in a world that is mostly un-fraught with danger and where we have to be afraid, it is primarily of each other. But we are still passing on our own fears to our children.