The New York Times had an article on December 6, 2016 about volume-limiting earphones for children. They reported that half of children’s earphones tested did not meet the restricted volume to the promised limit and made some recommendations.
Noise induced hearing loss is not a laughing matter. And, the more kids are exposed to loud noise or music, the more their hearing is at risk. Parents who are trying to protect their children’s hearing often purchase noise canceling headphones used to cut exposure when attending noisy concerts like my granddaughter uses when attending concerts with her parents, or volume-limiting earphones which are used to limit the loudness of music or games kids listen to.
How much noise is safe?
Noise limits of 85 dBA is the maximum safe exposure to noise. For ear protection to be successful, ear protectors need to cut sound at 85 dBA. There are a lot of earphones out there which advertise that they limit volume at 85 dB. Well, according to the New York Times, half of 30 sets of children’s earphones tested did not restrict volume to the advertised level, and one was so loud it could be hazardous in minutes of exposure. Maybe it should not be surprising that manufacturers are making claims that are not accurate, but what they are doing is a very dangerous.
Half children age 8 – 12 yrs of age, and 2/3 of teenagers are reported to listen to music daily. I remember being happy when my kids got earphones and I did not have to listen to their music at loud levels. But I was quite strict about how long I let them listen for, and I was sure that they were not listening at such a loud level that we could not carry on a conversation. Since my son was a drummer, I was worried about how much sound he was exposed to. (I provided him and his friends with earplugs.)
Safe listening is a combination of how loud the music is and how long you listen. 85 dB is considered safe for 8 hours/day, but 90 dB is safe for only 4 hours etc. Unfortunately, listening devices do not have mandatory restrictions. First, we can certainly ask why not? But equally distressing, is why manufacturers of volume-limiting earphones would be allowed to advertise that earphones provide protection that they do not.
Blake Papsin recommended that parents buy headphones that both limit volume and cancel outside noise. Other recommendations include the following
- Don’t use devices at full volume. Limit volume to 60%.
- Encourage children to take listening breaks. If possible, listen for half an hour and then stop for half an hour.
- If you are about 3 feet away from a child wearing earphones, and you cannot hold a conversation with the child, the earphones are too loud.
We are not likely to get kids to give up listening to music, nor do we want to. But we should protect their hearing. Before purchasing earphones, it is important to do some research and be certain that we are selecting earphones that do what they advertise. Then, we need to limit how long children are listening to music. Help them find other things to entertain them.