3-year olds should not be using headphones

Photo credit: Alper Tecer licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist

Would you buy headphones so a 3-year old could start personal listening? A Swedish company released news to Cision PR Newswire that it is selling “safe” 85 dB limit headphones for ages 3-to-15 years old. But these headphones won’t protect the younger generation from noise-induced hearing damage as claimed.

Noise science is clear. Occupational exposure over time at 85 decibels (dB) puts 8% of adults at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Risk is likely greater for children and teens with more delicate immature ears. Even a 70 dB non-occupational noise exposure, based on average adult susceptibility, may not be low enough to protect hearing health in the young. Particularly for sound energy delivered directly to the ears by headphones or earbuds.

Thanks to the Quiet Coalition, the UK Advertising Standards Authority found that based on noise science, Amazon ads for safe children’s 85 dB limit headphones were misleading and irresponsible. The ads violated the Committees of Advertising Practice code. I think this “safe headphone” news is misleading and irresponsible for the same reasons. We don’t know what is truly safe for children, but it’s definitely not 85 dB.

Would I buy headphones so a 3-year old could start personal listening? Not a chance. Three years old is far too young for a first noise dose.

Jan L. Mayes is an international Eric Hoffer Award winning author in Non-Fiction Health. She is also a science enthusiast and newly retired audiologist still specializing in noise, tinnitus-hyperacusis, and hearing health. You can read more of Jan’s work at her site, www.janlmayes.com.

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