Photo credit: Polina Chistyakova
by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
ZDNET posted this article about the best kids’ headphones of 2023. I added the question mark because I don’t think there are any good headphones for children, certainly not children as young as 2, for whom some of these headphones are recommended.
Most of these headphones have volume limits set at 85 decibels (dB). Volume-limited headphones are better than those without volume limits, which can produce sound level outputs greater than 100 dB, but at 85 dB without an exposure time these do not protect children’s hearing.
The ZDNET article also misleadingly states that sometimes hearing loss isn’t reversible. That’s just wrong. By definition, hearing loss is always permanent. Any temporary muffling of sound after loud noise, called Noise-Induced Temporary Threshold Shift, indicates that permanent auditory damage has occurred even if the symptoms resolve.
As I have been saying for some years now, the industrial-strength 85 dB volume limit, derived from the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health recommended exposure limit of 85 A-weighted decibels* that does not protect workers from hearing loss, is far too loud for a children’s delicate ears that must last an entire lifetime. The World Health Organization only recommends one hour of exposure to 85 dBA sound to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.
Parents and grandparents interested in their little darlings’ auditory health would be far better off reading them a book or playing a game with them than allowing the children to be amused watching videos on their devices with headphones so they don’t bother anyone.
I think that would be better for both the adults and the children.
*A-weighting adjusts sound measurements for the frequencies heard in human speech.