It seems every electronic device aimed at kids comes with headphones – the portable DVD player you use on long driving trips, the educational hand-held gaming unit they love and especially MP3 players loaded up with their favourite tunes.
Our kids are certainly wired for sound now but will they be wired to a hearing aid in the future because of the damage inflicted from the targeted noise directed through earphones?
According to the Journal of Pediatrics, 12.5 percent of kids between the ages of 6 and 19 have hearing loss as a result of listening to loud music. The report cites the use of earbuds at unsafe volumes as being the main culprit.
According to medical experts, this hearing loss starts well before children reach their teens because young children have shorter ear canals that are not fully developed so can suffer greater damage from loud music or toys. And no matter what age, the ear cannot tolerate loud music for long periods of time.
Before you start to panic, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have determined that it’s relatively safe to listen to a portable music player with headphones – as long as the volume is set to no higher than 60% of its potential volume, and the listening duration is no longer than 60 minutes – the 60/60 rule.
How to keep kids’ ears safe
Here are some simple measures parents can take to protect their children’s ears and still allow them to use headphones.
- Ditch the “bud” style earphones: these fit so snugly in the ear that they don’t allow any noise to escape. Plus they allow music to be played louder without distortion. Replace with headphones which sit outside the ear.
- Do a sound test: If you can hear what your child is listening to from a metre away, it’s too loud. Make sure they turn down the volume to prevent hearing damage.
- Set the volume: Many devices have built-in settings that allow users to limit the volume to a safe level. If this isn’t available, find the corresponding level that is, at a maximum, half the full volume.
- Take “listening breaks”: and don’t let them use their headphones for much more than an hour.
- Use kid-safe headphones: There are a whole lot of these on the market which have lower than usual maximum volume levels, and also better fit little kids. Do your research first and seek out reviews to determine if they are really safe and still do a sound test, as above.
- Talk about safe headphone usage: Make sure your kids are aware of the dangers of listening to really loud music or the like for long periods of times and set limits in the same way you set limits on watching television or playing electronic games.