Kids earbuds? You’ve got be kidding

Photo credit: Monstera

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Kids’ earbuds? You’ve got to be kidding. Unfortunately, though, the Digital Trends site isn’t kidding when reporter Simon Cohen writes, “these kids’ earbuds let outside sounds in automatically.” 

The point he is making is that a new product from MyFirst, wireless earbuds for kids marketed as CareBuds, has a safety feature that lets in outside sounds when the earbuds sense motion. The earbuds also have an 85 decibel volume limit.

Unfortunately, Cohen makes a common mistake, writing, “the CareBuds … also do volume-limiting, keeping sound to a maximum of 85 decibels, the loudest level that is considered safe for long exposures.” That just isn’t true. First, as the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority noted in 2018, there are no studies of safe noise levels for children. The occupationally-derived 85 decibel standard does not protect workers from noise-induced hearing loss, and children’s developing ears are probably more sensitive to noise than those of adults. Second, the only evidence-based safe noise level to prevent hearing loss is the EPA’s 70 decibel time-weighted daily average, but the actual safe noise level is probably closer to 55 decibels for a day.

Looking for safe earbuds or headphones for a child is like looking for a safe cigarette for a child: you won’t find one. Amazon advertises CareBuds as safe, a claim that the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices should review under its truth-in-advertising mandate. The Consumer Product Safety Commission should also require warning labels on all earbuds or headphones marketed to kids, WARNING: USE OF THIS PRODUCT MAY CAUSE HEARING LOSS.

Earbuds for kids are just a bad idea.

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