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Can Wearing Headphones Damage my Child's Hearing?

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Ah! The unparalleled tranquility that means you don’t have to listen to One Direction anymore. Headphones do bring some welcome peace and quiet to your household and most teens enjoy listening to music on their smartphones, but when music is played too loudly through headphones, it can result in permanent hearing loss.

According to a study by the Journal of American Medical Association, hearing loss in teens is “30% higher than it was in the ’80s and ’90s”. The study estimates that about 1 in 5 (that’s 6.5 million) US teens suffer some hearing loss from listening to loud music on their headphones.

While you may feel like your hearing is being damaged when your children turn up the volume, you are far safer than when music is played loudly through a headset. The proximity of the transducers to the eardrums is what poses the danger here. Hearing is made possible by tiny hair cells in the cochlea that convert vibrations into electrical signals that travel to the brain. These tiny hairs naturally die out as we age, but can be permanently damaged by too much vibration.

Loud music (or other noise) can result in two kinds of damage. Sensorineural damage occurs in the inner ear when hair cells are negatively affected by loud noises. Each group of hair cells is used to hear a particular frequency of sound. When they die off, that frequency can no longer be heard. High frequency hair cells are the most sensitive and they are the first to succumb to damage. This means that most adults can’t hear frequencies between 3 kHz and 6 kHz.

You can test which frequencies you can no longer hear by following this link.

Tinnitus is a more serious condition in which the hair cells suffer permanent damage. Here the hair cells register vibrations even if there is no sound which results in a persistent buzzing sound.

How loud should headphones be?

Here are the recommended daily doses of sound that the ear can safely manage.

90 dbA 8 hrs

92 dbA 6 hrs

95 dbA 4 hrs

97 dbA 3 hrs

100 dbA 2 hrs

102 dbA 1.5 hrs

105 dbA 1 hr

110 dbA 0.5 hr

115 dbA 0.25 hr or less

Encourage your children to practice caution when they are playing music loudly. While it may be okay for very short periods of time, it could result in damage or permanent hearing loss. Listening to loud music while walking, biking or driving can compromise your ability to pick up dangers in your surrounding environment. As a general rule, advise your kids to always keep volumes below 70%.

pic by Maddercarmine
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