Are Volume Limiting Headphones Really Safe for Your Child?

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on July 23rd, 2021

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 have looked 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 the same 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 change the volume in the computer settings, adding a cap to prevent the volume getting above a certain level.

A child who knows their way around a computer can get into these settings if they feel like their audio isn’t loud enough.

However, some volume-limited headphones designed specifically for kids won’t allow your child to adjust the setting. 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 using volume-limiting headphones?

A safe level of sound is around 85 decibels, however, some volume-limiters still allow 90-95 decibels.

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 good to supervise your children to make sure they aren’t listening to volumes 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, and screens can strain eyesight. Make sure your kids can take a break!

How to tell if your child’s volume is too loud

If you’re standing around three feet away, your kids should still be able to hear you speak without you needing to yell. If they can’t hear you or you have to shout, then their volume is too loud! 

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 when asked a question.”

Do regular checks yourself, listening through your child’s earphones to test how loud it is. Better yet, teach your child about the importance of volume control.

Why should you 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 children about how to check their own volume (and why it’s important) is a crucial step. But in the meantime, a pair of good volume-limited headphones can give you the confidence that your child won’t be able to access dangerous volumes.

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Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on July 23rd, 2021

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