The majority of the information on long-term hearing loss comes from studies of individuals who are exposed to noise at work. It is deemed detrimental to be exposed to sounds at 85 decibels (dB), which is similar to the noise in a packed restaurant or heavy traffic for eight hours. So, if your child listens to movies, music, or video games at 85 decibels or greater for that long at a time or over the course of the day, they could be at risk.

Many students have spent most of the previous year with an additional artificial appendage: headphones or buds plastered to their ears, thanks to online learning, downtime gaming, and Netflix binge watching. Many parents are concerned about whether headphones can cause irreversible hearing loss. Yes and no are the answers. 

“Headphones are not inherently more harmful than other noise sources. However, if utilised inappropriately, they can lead to severe noise exposure,” says Boris Chang, an audiologist with Hearing Life in Scarborough, Ont.

Susan Scollie, head of Western University’s National Centre for Audiology and professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, puts it this way: “The hazard is listening to anything extraordinarily loud for an extended period of time.” You should keep the volume and duration to a minimum.” Noise-induced hearing loss develops over time. If your child is repeatedly exposed to loud noises for extended periods of time, they may suffer irreversible damage.

One issue with earbuds (and some over-the-ear headphones) is that they’re designed to be “acoustically open,” which means they let in ambient noise. If you’re jogging and need to hear automobiles and other risks around you, this is a good thing. The issue is that we have a tendency to try to drown out the background noise by turning up the volume.

Headphones and earbuds have become increasingly popular, with the market expected to increase at a rate of 20% per year over the next five years. But there’s a snag: Your children, teenagers, or young adults may be putting their hearing in jeopardy. Loud noises are harmful to our health. If small children use headphones, as retired audiologist Jan Mayes told Healthy Hearing, they may have problems recognising speech in noisy situations as early as their teens to early twenties.

How much do loud headphones strain your ears?

When listening to music through headphones, determining how loud is too loud can be difficult. Sounds as loud as 94-110 dBA can be heard on a typical music player. Anyone’s ears can be damaged in less than two minutes at 110 dBA.

Listening to these blasts at high volumes for an extended period of time, or at lower volumes but for an extended period of time, leaves a mark. It has the potential to harm the hair cells in the ears, which are responsible for transmitting sound to the brain. It can also cause the auditory nerve to deteriorate if the connection between those cells and nerve cells is disrupted.

Explain the problem to your child, depending on his or her age: Even a loudness they like can be harmful to their ears. It doesn’t have to “hurt” people to be harmful. Hearing loss might also strike suddenly. There’s a chance they won’t be given any notice.

Talk about how it feels to have your hearing damaged. Explain that while they’re attempting to concentrate on something else—even their favourite music—they can hear strange buzzing, ringing, or other noises (tinnitus). Tinnitus is frequently accompanied by a sensation of fullness or pressure. Children may believe that others can hear the ringing in their ears, so make sure they understand.

They may become sensitive to noise and experience bouts of hyperacusis, in which the clatter of dishes in another room causes agony.

It’s not only that they’ll be able to hear quieter noises if they have hearing loss. Explain that it can be difficult to understand what people are saying to you if you have hearing loss, and that you may feel alone in gatherings. You might even be made fun of. Hearing aids are extremely helpful, but they do not restore your original hearing and do not usually completely eliminate hyperacusis or tinnitus. The bottom line: While listening to loud music may be enjoyable, hearing loss is a significant cost.

Aim for a volume of less than 50%.

Some headphones and earbuds claim to control volume, but they don’t always live up to their claims. Furthermore, the industry guideline maximum level of 85 dBA (equivalent to a lawnmower or leaf blower) isn’t a safe bet. This figure is based on restrictions designed to protect adults on the work, such as in factories or airports. According to a 2018 WHO report and a 2019 research, 70 dBA is more reasonable if you don’t want your youngster to suffer from hearing damage. On your device, that’s usually around 50% volume.

Breaks for listening are a terrific idea.

Teach your youngsters to take pauses from listening. Loud noise has a cumulative effect. The hair cells on the inner ear will benefit from a respite every hour. One method is to make it a rule that they must remove their headphones before entering the kitchen or bathroom.

Instead of earbuds, consider noise-cancelling headphones. This reduces background noise, making them less motivated to turn up the volume to drown out other noises.

In loud situations, teach your children not to turn up the volume. A noise-cancelling model is required if they use their headphones frequently in noisy environments.

Overnight sleeping with headphones is not recommended (napping on transit might be okay at the right volume).

Every three years, have your child’s hearing tested. Also, even if the symptoms don’t last, ask your youngster to describe any ringing, muffling, fluttering, thumping, sensitivity, distortion, or pain. Symptoms that are only temporary may return and become persistent. They should also tell if they have any difficulty understanding what others are saying. “Like looking for a safe cigarette, looking for safe headphones or a safe personal audio system/personal music player/personal listening device is like looking for a safe cigarette.” You won’t be able to find one “Fink remarked. “Your ears are far too valuable to be harmed by personal audio systems. People have managed to exist without a personal sound track for millennia, and you can too.

Read more: Tips and Tricks: How to make your Truly Wireless Earbuds Last

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