Your Child’s Ear Buds Could Cause Hearing Loss

Jan 04, 2017

happy kids wearing earbuds

Children’s headphones and earbuds are designed to help limit the negative effects of loud sounds on kid’s ears, but a new study from the New York Times says, that may not always be the case. As parents often fear, the claims of “safe for young ears” may be more marketing than truth.

Headphones and earbuds designed for kids are made to limit the volume that sound can be played, essentially protecting children’s ears from harmful high decibel sounds. This seems like a great idea in theory and one that parents across the globe have bought into, but the New York Times study claims many of the “kid safe” headphones are actually doing very little to limit volume.

The Wirecutter, a reviews website owned by the New York Times Company, conducted an analysis of 30+ sets of children’s headphones with an iPod Touch and found that over 50% of them did NOT limit volume to the extent that they claim. It’s scary to think that product manufacturers would advertise something as “safe” for kids, when in fact, it’s not. Studies like these serve as wake-up calls for parents trying to protect the health of their children and with marketing being less than honest, it can be difficult to know which way is up.

Volume is measured in decibels and at certain high decibels, sounds can cause serious ear damage within minutes. A volume of 100 decibels can be tolerated for 15 minutes, yet at just 108 decibels, it can cause irreversible damage to kids in a matter of three minutes. Some portable devices can reach levels of 97 -107 decibels, making it essential for parents to monitor children when they are listening.

Wirecutter went a step further and put together a list of the best earbuds and headphones for kids to help parents make informed decisions. The team chose the Bluetooth model Puro BT2200 as the top choice for earbuds for kids. As long as the cord wasn’t used, it properly restricted volume to a safe level, had solid sound quality, and sound cancellation as well.

A 2015 report of 2,600 participants claimed 50% of 8-12 year olds and almost two-thirds of teenagers listen to music every day. With the serious and lifelong effects of high volume exposure, it’s important for parents to teach their kids responsible listening habits at a young age.

Tips for Protecting Kid’s Hearing:

  • If a child is an arm’s length away from their parent while using headphones, they should still be able to hear when asked a question. If they can’t, that indicates the volume is too loud.
  • Keep any volume level at 60%. Audiologists recommend this level to avoid exposure to harmful high decibel volumes.
  • Teach your child to take breaks from noises. If they are listening to music or watching a movie, encourage them to get up and walk around for 5 or 10 minutes every hour to allow the ears to rest as non-stop listening can cause damage.

Dangerous noise levels don’t just happen while kids are actively listening to something. They can also come from everyday sounds in and around your home.

Here are a few ways to limit the noise within your home:

  • Get in the habit of using a low volume on TVs, radios, and video games in the home. It’s best to use the lowest volume setting possible that is still audible. If one person is having trouble hearing, using subtitles is also a great alternative to cranking up the volume.
  • Try to limit the number of noises going on at one time. If the family is watching a movie together, don’t have the dishwasher going in the next room or avoid vacuuming when someone is listening to music. Being conscious of the noise level in a home can make a big difference in the noise tolerance of your children.
  • Consider using furnishings that break up sound. If you have a tile floor and high vaulted ceilings in a large room, it’s likely to cause echoing effects and allows sound to bounce around the room. Decorating with soft furnishings can help break up and absorb some of the noise.