Whether earbuds can damage your child’s hearing is totally understandable and does not make you a worrier. We are fully aware that those people who work in noisey environments have to wear ear protection, and standing next to a speaker at a concert damages our ears. The evidence from audiologists at the moment is that if young children use headphones, they may have difficulty processing speech in noisy environments as early as their teens or twenties. By the time these children reach their mid-40s, they may have hearing loss comparable to that of their grandparents.
Hearing Loss Is Already an Issue
We have discussed before appropriate ages for a child to get a phone. Numerous children and adults have already experienced lifelong hearing loss due to noise. This is referred to as noise-induced hearing loss and is preventable. According to the World Health Organization, a portion of the population between the ages of 12 and 35 is at risk for hearing impairment due to loud noises. Headphones and earbuds play a significant role here. When researchers examined hearing assessments administered to a large cross-section of persons 20 years apart, they confirmed that those who reported using earbuds at loud volumes had poorer hearing. Therefore there is a clear link to a child wearing earbuds and damaging their hearing.
Tinnitus, which often involves ringing in the ears, is an early sign. According to audiologists, there has been a massive surge of children reporting the problem during the past year. This hearing loss increases the risk of social isolation, falls, accidents, cognitive decline, and depression in old age. This is not just limited to rock musicians but is clearly more prevalent in children.
How Earbuds Can Damage Your Child’s Hearing
Loud noise harms the hair cells that convey sound to the brain through the ear. These are in the ear canal and at the end is a delicate diaphragm. It can also disrupt the link between these cells and nerve cells, leading to the degeneration of the auditory nerve. Unlike damage to other parts of the body, inner ear injuries never recover. As more and more hair cells are lost over time, your hearing will progressively deteriorate as they can not be replaced. This is the mechanism by which earbuds damage your child’s hearing. With it being channelled directly into the ear canal there is less change of respite. It might be difficult to determine how loud is too loud when using headphones. On a typical music player, you may hear music between 94 and 110 decibels (dBA). Less than two minutes at 110 dBA can cause ear damage.
This number results from regulations designed to protect adults on the job, such as in factories and airports. According to the World Health Organization, if you don’t want your child to experience hearing loss, 70 dBA is a safer level. This is often approximately 50% volume in a device.
So can earbuds damage your child’s hearing? Typically, noise-induced hearing loss caused by earphones takes some time to develop. Therefore, many individuals do not realize they have a problem until it’s too late. Hearing loss is characterized by ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the ears after hearing a loud noise and the muffled perception of sounds.
Noise-induced hearing loss caused by earbuds is entirely preventable if they are not used for too long or at too high a volume. Listen to music, play a movie or video game at a maximum volume of no more than 50%. 60 minutes is the maximum time you should spend with earphones in your ears. The use of earbuds means that your child can be listening to music far longer than this.
Earbuds can also damage your health by making you less aware of your surroundings. Listening to music at a loud volume can impair your awareness of your surroundings. This raises the likelihood of an accident. When running on a bike lane, for instance, it is difficult to hear a biker yelling if your music is louder than all other surrounding sounds.
How Can I Stop Earbuds Damaging My Child’s Hearing?
The fact is that, for all of us, it is hard to know if our music is too loud. If the external volumes are louder we are tempted to turn them up. The best way for you to intervene with your child is not to shout that it is so loud. But rather to explain the science of why it is damaging their hearing and the effects it will have on them. Discuss the reality associated with hearing loss. Explain that they may hear strange buzzing, ringing, or other sounds (tinnitus) when trying to focus on something else, including their favorite music. There are videos online of rock stars talking about the effect it has had on them. These will be more relatable to them.
Some headphones and earbuds advertise that they limit volume, but this claim is not always fulfilled. In addition, the industry standard maximum volume of 85 dBA (equivalent to a lawnmower or leaf blower) is not a sure thing. This is still above the 70dBA recommended. It is also possible to change the setting on a phone or games consul to limit these. This does not mean that your child can’t work around it, but allows a conversation about what is reasonable, and evidence that you are not alone in your concern.
To assist your child in understanding these numbers, listed below are the average decibel levels of several common sounds:
- Maximum volume music through headphones, athletic events, and concerts: 94-110 dBA
- Sirens: 110-129 dBA
- Firework display: 140 to 160 dBA
- Normal conversation: 50-60 dBA; background noise or shouting: 60-70 dBA
- Cinema: 74-104 decibels
- 80 to 110 decibels, for motorcycles and bikes
The objective is to listen well below 70 dBA to provide a safety margin, particularly for children’s ears. This means lowering the volume to a comfortable level below 50%.
Parents should teach their children to take breaks from listening. The harm caused by loud noise accumulates. Even an hourly pause will rest the hair cells in the inner ear. A rule that children must remove their earbuds before entering the kitchen or bathroom is one option.
Consider purchasing noise-canceling headphones instead than earbuds. This reduces background noise, so users are less likely to increase the level to cover other sounds. In addition, children should learn not to increase the volume in noisy environments. A noise-canceling model is required if they frequently use their headphones in noisy environments.
Do not use headphones overnight. At least once every three years, have your child’s hearing tested. Ask your child to report any temporary symptoms, such as ringing, muffling, fluttering, thumping, sensitivity, distortion, and pain.
Final Thoughts on Whether Earbuds Can Damage Your Child’s Hearing
Loud music can damage people’s hearing, this is why there are safety at work laws. Earbuds and headphones have the capacity to bring all of us enjoyment. Earbuds mean that ears can be exposed to higher levels of noise over longer periods of time. Therefore it is essential for all of us to be aware of this. Young people with their lifestyle and interests are at a higher risk. Therefore as a parent, as in all things, education is always the best way to manage these risks. Talk to them about how to self-manage. It is important to teach your child how to talk about all aspects of their health.