The harm your kids’ headphones could be doing to their ears

Whether using them to listen to music or watch TikTok, headphones are popular among kids. In fact, at the University of Michigan, the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health survey found two in three kids use headphones.

When used safely, headphones can provide entertainment, but turn them up too loud and they can negatively impact a child’s health. This has doctors reminding parents to make sure their children are protecting their ears.

“I’ve had a pretty large surge in children over the last few months actually,” said Dr. Britney Ometz, an audiologist at Anne Arundel Audiology in Maryland.

While headphones are not solely to blame, Ometz said children failing listening tests at school has led to the rise in young patients.

The problem arises when children, and even adults, turn headphones too loud and listen to them that way for too long. The poll also found one in six kids that use headphones wear them for at least two hours a day.

While some younger patients end up being OK after they’re examined by an audiologist, other children can have issues with speech and language development when hearing loss begins at a young age.

Her advice is to protect children from hearing loss caused by headphones by knowing when to tell them to turn them down.

“If it’s louder than a vacuum cleaner, it’s far too loud. If you can hear the sound coming out of their headphones, it’s too loud. And if you are standing about an arm’s length away, and you call their name and they don’t respond, then you know it’s too loud,” she said.

She also recommends practicing the “60/60 rule,” with a kid’s headphone use being limited to 60 minutes a day and at no louder than 60% of the device’s volume level.

“It’s just a guaranteed way to keep your ears safe,” she said.

Ometz said headphones aside, another thing that brings children into her office is not protecting their ears while in a band or at concerts.

“Whether the kiddos in band or you’re mowing the lawn as an adult, you need to be wearing hearing protection,” she said. “There’s so many different types, you can get them custom made, or some are filtered.”

Ometz also urges parents to be on the look out for symptoms of hearing loss which can include a child not reacting easily to loud sounds. They may also be struggling at school and not answering questions or following instructions.

“Especially the little ones, even toddlers, you ask them to do something and they may not follow instructions because they cannot hear,” she said.

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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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