Listen up, parents. According to a new report, many kids' headphones that claim to limit the volume at which music can be played don't live up to that promise, and they may even be causing our children hearing loss and ear damage. This finding is especially important to consider as you work your way down your holiday shopping list, and since according to The New York Times, half of 8- to 12-year-olds listen to music every day.
Product recommendations website The Wirecutter, which is owned by the Times, looked at 30 sets of kids' headphones and ear buds and found half did not restrict volume per their claims. Half!
"These are terribly important findings," Cory Portnuff, a pediatric audiologist at the University of Colorado Hospital, commented to the Times.
Eighty-five decibels is considered safe. But the loudest headphones tested went up to 114 decibels! As the Times explains, a power lawn mower operates at 100 decibels, and exposure is safe for just 15 minutes. Um, isn't it disturbing to think of your child essentially wearing a mega-power lawn mower on her ears? And for longer than 15 minutes, to be sure.
It's also disturbing that manufacturers are essentially lying to consumers. But as Dr. Blake Papsin, the chief otolaryngologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, also told the paper, "Headphone manufacturers aren't interested in the health of your child's ears. They are interested in selling products, and some of them are not good for you."
It's worth noting there is no mandatory standard to regulate the maximum sound output for headphones you can buy in this country. But maybe there should be, because as The Wirecutter reports, hearing loss among kids ages 12-19 is increasing. Listening to too-loud headphones isn't solely to blame, but cumulative exposure to loud sounds does result in hearing loss.
Dr. Jim Battey, from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, also told the Times that a child's headphone volume is unsafe and may even be potentially damaging if your child cannot hear you speak to them.
Here's hoping this information will help you make smart buying decisions this holiday season, and guide your child to listen safely, to maximize his or her chances for long-term ear health.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.