Are Volume-Limiting Headphones Really Safe for Your Child?

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on January 11th, 2022

Just about everyone has a smartphone in their pocket these days. Older people might remember the screen-free days of their youth, but for children, phones and tablets are the norm.

No doubt your child is already comfortable with using a phone or other mobile device. They may happily plug themselves into the device, don a pair of headphones, and spend hours playing games or watching videos.

As parents, we’re often concerned about the effect these screens can have on our children. Blue screens can strain eyesight, but did you also know that high levels of sound can damage your child’s ears?

If this is something you’re concerned about, you may consider looking into volume-limiting headphones or earbuds.

There are loads of earbuds for kids to choose from but are they appropriate? Do these volume-limiting headphones really work? Are they safe for your child?

Let’s find out.

How do volume-limiting headphones work?

As adults, we know when “loud” becomes “too loud”. Children may not understand how their hearing can be damaged, and might happily turn up their sound to maximum when their parents aren’t around.

The upper limit on most headphones is around 115 decibels. This is too loud for extended periods of listening and will cause hearing loss over time.

A sensible adult won’t turn their volume up all the way, but children often don’t have those scruples! Volume-limiting headphones are restricted to around 85 decibels, which is a much safer sound threshold.

Can kids bypass a volume-limiting setting?

Kids today are usually very tech-savvy, and, depending on the kind of volume-limiting headphones you buy, they may be able to get around the setting.

For example, if your child is using a laptop or PC, you could adjust the volume in the computer settings, adding a cap to prevent the volume from rising above a certain level.

Any child who knows their way around a computer will get into these settings if they think their audio isn’t loud enough.

However, some volume-limited headphones, designed specifically for kids, prevent the child from adjusting those settings.

Buying volume-limited headphones is probably safer and easier than trying to cap the volume settings on all your child’s devices.

Should you supervise your child while they use volume-limiting headphones?

A safe level of sound is about 85 decibels, though some volume-limiters still allow 90 to 95.

While it’s safe to listen to sounds of 85 decibels for up to eight hours, the higher the decibel level, the shorter the safe listening time.

It’s important to supervise your children to make sure they’re not listening at volume levels that could damage their hearing.

On top of that, your kids should take regular breaks from even safe volumes. Wearing headphones or earbuds for extended periods can cause ear fatigue, while screens can strain eyesight. Make sure your kids take regular breaks!

How to tell if their volume’s too loud

Your kids should be able to hear you speak from a distance of around three feet without you needing to yell. If they can’t hear you, or you have to shout, then the volume level’s too high! 

James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., suggests a good rule of thumb: “If a parent is an arm’s length away, a child wearing headphones should still be able to hear if asked a question.”

Do regular checks yourself by listening through your child’s earphones to test the volume. Better yet, teach your child the importance of volume control.

Why consider volume-limiting headphones?

Chances are, your child will have access to a device and a pair of headphones virtually all the time. Try as you might, you won’t be able to supervise them every minute of the day.

Teaching your children about the importance of monitoring their own volume is a crucial step. But, for now, a set of good, volume-limited headphones will ensure they won’t stray up to volumes of a harmful level.

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on January 11th, 2022

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