Moms don’t often think twice about passing her child a pair of headphones for a movie or game, if it means a few minutes of silence. Portable entertainment devices are perfect for long road trips or air travel with children.
But do you ever test your child’s headphones beforehand to see if the decibel level is safe? The labels on child headphones can be deceiving and aren’t always accurate, as The Wirecutter pointed out after testing 30 sets of headphones over the span of 59 hours last year.
Their research showed that while some headphones claim to be volume-limiting and safe (no higher than 85 decibels), about half of them pushed past 85 decibels when tested. And while the World Health Organization (WHO) considers outputs of no higher than 85 decibels to be ‘safe’ for a period of 8 hours, nothing restricts manufacturers from selling headphones or listening devices with potentially unsafe sound outputs.
According to the WHO, safe listening is a matter of adjusting not only the volume of your child’s audio, but also the length of time he or she listens for. Listening to music or games too loudly for too long, especially in young children, can cause noise-induced hearing loss, which hinders their ability to learn, causes increased anxiety, and attention-seeking behavior.
Generally speaking, the louder the audio, the shorter amount of time should be spent listening. If the music is above 85 decibels, at around 88 decibels, cut your listening time in half to prevent potential hearing loss down the road.
When in doubt, NIDCD director James F. Battey recommends adjusting your child’s volume to a level low enough for them to respond when asked a question, if you’re about arm’s length away.
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