Our #1 Pick
Puro Sound Labs BT2200 Premium Kids Headphones
Our #1 Pick for Headphones for Kids
These headphones offer everything a kid could want with the sound limiting capabilities parents need. From comfortable foldable design to the 85 dB limit for sensitive ears, you'll be able to make sure that your child is safe and happy with their new headphones. Plus, they come in four fun colors, so you can really have a good time with it.
What do studies show about headphones and hearing loss?
Headphones have been around since the 1950s, but it wasn't until the past 15-20 years (when devices like the iPod were created) that they really became a point of contention for audiologists worried about hearing loss.
Even studies by otolaryngologists and audiologists in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) have had conflicting findings.
For example, there was good news in one study showing hearing loss rates among teens using headphones had dropped significantly from 22.5 percent in 2007 to 15.2 percent in 2010.
But more recently another study showed a correlation between the likelihood of hearing loss in children who use headphones versus those who don't.
Can headphones actually be safe for kids to use?
There are 2 major features to look for:
1. Noise cancellation. In terms of listening safety, noise cancellation is the most important feature. Noise cancellation prevents the user (ideally) from turning the volume up higher than is necessary due to loud ambient sounds.
Imagine sitting in the family room trying to watch your favorite TV show while the laundry is running in the adjacent room and your sibling or roommate is walking around talking on the phone. Unavoidably you end up turning the volume up to drown out those unwanted sounds.
This is bad for your ears.
That's where noise cancellation comes into play.
There are two types:
- Active noise cancellation. This is the preferred type. This is accomplished via electronics in the headphones that emit a sound wave 180° out of phase with the ambient noise. This wave essentially cancels out the surrounding sounds without diminishing audio quality.
- Passive noise cancellation. This type relies on an “acoustic seal” where the headphone closes over top the ear (usually only accomplished with close-backed over-ear headphones) to block out background noises. Having passive noise cancellation is better than nothing, but relies too heavily on a perfect fit.
2. Volume limiting. The best of the best headphones for kids (and all the ones on our list below) will have some sort of built in volume limit. This means no sound played through the device will exceed a specific decibel level (usually 85 dB). This is an important feature, but even the New York Times has found that sometimes it doesn't work exactly as intended.
Top 7 Best Headphones for Kids
PuroBasic Volume Limiting Wired Headphones for Kids
Puro Sound Labs Junior Jams
LilGadgets Untangled Pro Premium Children’s Headphones
Buddyphones Foldable Volume Limiting Kids Headphones
JLab Audio JBuddies Kids Volume Limiting Headphones
AmazonBasics Volume Limited On-Ear Headphones for Kids
2 final tips from our audiologist
Tip #1: Use the built-in volume limiting features in your devices
Children and teenagers are most likely using headphones (or hearables) with Apple (iPhone, iPad, etc.) or Android products. And most of these products have media settings that allow for safer listening.
For example, we personally use a Samsung Galaxy S8 and you can find media settings under: Settings > Sounds and vibration > Volume > Top Right Vertical Ellipsis > Media Volume Limiter.
Simply turn the above setting to “ON” and you can even set a PIN number so your child can't physically increase the volume past the limit you set.
Here's what it looks like in action:
In the above example (without a PIN) the Samsung Galaxy S8 gives a high volume warning when you cross over the threshold (that you can set).
This is super helpful as a reminder of “Hey, maybe you don't need to crank your music up quite so loud.”
Tip #2: Limit the amount of time your child listens to their audio devices using headphones.
The next best thing you can do to protect their hearing from damaging music or sounds is to limit how long they are exposed to music or movies via headphones.
For example, giving them a time limit of 30 minutes or 1 hour at a time will help limit their sound exposure and prevent damage to their hearing. Some devices even have a time-limit built in so you can have it shut off when it reaches that pre-set time.
If you think of your ears as a muscle, it helps to give them rest every now and then.
How loud is too loud and how long is too long?
There have been two long time standards by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 dB can cause hearing loss. Prolonged is typically defined as a time weighted average of 8 hours.
- Any exposure to sounds above 120 dB can cause immediate hearing loss. It is believed that your stapedius muscle will activate above 115 dB in order to alter the positions of the ossicles to reduce response to loud sounds.
The relationship between increasing the intensity of a sound and its damage to the inner ear is not linear. Meaning, while sounds around 85 dB for 8 hours may be tolerable, it can not be extrapolated to mean that sounds at 100 dB are manageable for ~4 hours.
In fact, it's not even close. 100 dB sounds are only save for approximately 15 minutes.
Headphones aren't the enemy
Music is beautiful, even many television shows or movies can be beautiful or at least educational or helpful.
I don't believe the answer is to avoid them, simply to avoid over indulging in them at the expense of your ears.
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