In the world today, kids are using electronic devices from ever younger ages. Nowadays, babies seem to know how to use a tablet before they can walk, and there are all kinds of apps and content specially designed for even the youngest users.
There is so much beneficial technology out there for toddlers and teens, and mastering laptops, tablets and smartphones is a vital part of children’s education – but all this means kids are using headphones earlier and more often than ever before.
Ever since the days when the first Walkmans appeared in the 1970s, people have worried about the long-term negative effects of headphones on our hearing. When we are talking about youngsters’ hearing, the problem becomes even acuter, and we need to educate ourselves about the dangers.
This article about the dangers of exposure to noise explains the basics of how the ear works and how our hearing can be damaged. It goes on to explain how noise can also have other detrimental effects on the development of young children. As the article states,
Noise can pose a serious threat to a child’s physical and psychological health, including learning and behavior. For example, noise can: INTERFERE WITH SPEECH AND LANGUAGE. Repeated exposure to noise during critical periods of development may affect a child’s acquisition of speech, language, and language-related skills, such as reading and listening. IMPAIR LEARNING. The inability to concentrate in a noisy environment can affect a child’s capacity to learn. IMPAIR HEARING. Tinnitus, often described as a ringing or buzzing sound in the ear, is a symptom associated with many forms of hearing loss.
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It is widely understood that prolonged exposure to loud music or other sounds can permanently damage our hearing, and the louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time required for damage to occur.
One way to help protect our kids’ ears is to give them volume-limiting headphones. There are several ways of reducing the volume in kids’ headphones, including using phones with built-in volume limiters or adapters that can be used in conjunction with regular headphones.
Another way to help is to buy good-quality headphones with ambient noise-reducing capabilities, such as those made by Sennheiser, that block external sounds. With these, you don’t need to increase the volume to hear clearly in noisy environments.
It is especially important to give kids the right headphones because they simply don’t have the same awareness as adults. As Jason Fitzpatrick explains in an article on the subject,
As adults we’re aware (or should be aware at any rate) of the risk of damaging our hearing by using power tools without ear protection or cranking up headphones to skull-rattling levels, but kids are oblivious to the long term risk of such exposure.
To read the rest of the article, click here.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as understanding the problem and then buying volume-limiting headphones to prevent the dangers. As Catherine Saint Louis writes in the New York Times, some of the volume-reducing equipment on the market doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. She explains that some headphone sets being sold as “kid safe” were still capable of producing dangerous levels of sound.
She goes on to write that, while using technology to prevent hearing loss is important, supervision and education are just as vital.
Even with headphones that effectively limit maximum sound, supervision is crucial. “Eighty-five decibels isn’t some magic threshold below which you’re perfectly safe and above which your ears bleed,” Dr. Fligor said.
Audiologists offered some tips for listening: First, keep the volume at 60 percent. Second, encourage your child to take breaks every hour to allow the hair cells in the inner ear to rest. Nonstop listening can eventually damage them.
Read the whole article here.
So there are a few key points to take away from this. First of all, we need to understand how our ears work. Prolonged exposure to loud music or noise can cause a reduction of the tiny hairs in the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss or even deafness.
In order to protect kids ears from damage, it is also advisable to give them volume-limiting headphones to protect them from prolonged exposure to dangerous levels of sound.
Finally, supervising kids and educating them on safe use is vital for protecting their hearing and will ensure they grow up with safe listening habits.