Earbud Safety for Toddlers and Children

Almost everyone has a piece of the modern technology – including children. Smartphones, tablets, video game consoles and MP3 players are in every child’s backpack. Kids would often use earbuds as they listen to music, watch YouTube videos and play games. It’s a good activity to keep themselves preoccupied while settling themselves at the backseat of the car, sitting at the waiting room or trailing Mom at the supermarket.

It’s not so surprising that a lot of parents see it as a better way to keep their kids behaved, preventing any chances of them crying and throwing tantrums.

While keeping your kids glued to technology does have some benefits, their frequent tech habits may cause damage to their hearing – even permanent hearing loss. And in a lot of cases, they may even be attributed to hearing loss caused by exposure to too much noise at an early age.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says that experts predict a nationwide rise of hearing loss cases due to the improper or unsafe use of personal audio devices. Independent studies further show noise-induced hearing loss cases in their younger patients.

These recent developments are enough to raise concerns from every parent, whose own kids are constantly tied to their own gadgets. This forces you to ask, “Is it really safe for my kid to use headphones, earphones and earbuds?”

The answer is, yes, it can be safe for your child to listen closely to sounds as they are tinkering with their smartphones and tablets. But that depends on many factors: volume, listening period, the type of listening audio device and the size of your child’s ear canal.

Younger children, obviously, have smaller ear canals. Plus, their hearing senses may be still developing at this stage of their lives. Kids need to hear well to develop their listening abilities and speech. But your child’s habit of prolonged listening at high volumes can put him or her at high risk to suffering temporary or permanent hearing loss, knowing that their small ears are still sensitive to loud noises.

As a parent, you obviously do not want your kid to lose their hearing. It would be good to refrain them from using earphones and earbuds for a while. When they are old enough, they should let you know which sound levels are comfortable for them.

When your kid is ready to listen to music, audiobooks or videos with earphones or earbuds on, consider selecting specialized programs that will maintain the volume of 85 down to even 75 decibles. You can also download noise reduction apps, which allow you to regulate volume settings on your child’s smartphones and tablets more simply and easily.

Headphones, earphones and earbuds – which of them is the safest?

There is some nagging debate whether earbuds are worse for your child than earphones (or headphones).

Headphones are worn over the outer ear surface. They have oversized earbuds which can completely cover your child’s small ears. Earphones are shrunk-down versions of headphones which can be worn close to your child’s ears.

Earbuds, on the other hand, are designed to cling to the outer ear without actually fitting close to the ear canal.

So which of these listening devices are the safest possible for the children to use: headphones, earphones or earbuds?

Most doctors recommend bulky headphones over smaller earphones and earbuds. The headphones’ oversized, cushioned and hollowed earbuds provide a safe distance between the child’s ear canal and the sound source. Earphones, on the other hand, are placed directly inside the child’s inner ear canal which means the closer the sound gets to the ear, the noisier it becomes. 

Earphones and earbuds are also capable of producing a higher sound output (up to 9 decibels) even when played on the same sound level and from the same device.  And this can be quite detrimental to your child’s hearing. The incorrect placement of earphones and earbuds into your child’s ear can also contribute to their hearing loss, that’s why it is important to teach them with the proper ways of inserting earphones (or earbuds).

Choosing the appropriate and safe volume levels, using the proper audio listening device (and their correct usage) and constant monitoring over your children’s listening habits will allow them to enjoy listening to music without the risk of hearing loss.