Teenagers and Hearing Loss

Are Ear Buds Damaging Your
Child’s Hearing?

Ear buds, ear phones, headphones, Bluetooth® devices.. they provide private listening for kids and teens in schools, at home, at the bus stop, in the car… just about everywhere people spend time.

When listening to music, ear buds are by far the most popular choice when enjoying a personal listening device: they’re tiny and light, fit into a pocket, and cost next to nothing. What you may not realise is that they are potentially damaging your child’s hearing. Children and teenagers are “tuning out” more and more as electronic devices become more popular and as a result, are experiencing hearing loss.

According to Knox Audiology hearing loss is currently 30 per cent higher now than it was in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The invention of the mp3 player was welcomed by generation Y, but now the average teenager is listening to loud and potentially damaging music for several hours a day.

The tricky thing here is that the effects from listening to music with ear buds/earphones may not be noticed now, but 20 years later when it is too late to do anything about it.

Be aware that hearing loss is irreversible!

How does the use of earbuds cause hearing loss and possibly tinnitus?

Hearing loss and tinnitus (a ringing, buzzing or whistling heard in the ear when that sound is not actually present) in relation to music or noise is caused by damage to the hair cells in the inner ear. We have an organ called the cochlea that transmits signals to the brain via movement of tiny microscopic hairs called cilia. If the sound is too loud (or the decibels too high) the cilia can be damaged, and therefore the electrical signals from sound waves will not be sent to the brain where the sound can be decoded.

The higher the Decibels, the shorter amount of time it takes for noise-induced hearing loss to occur (dangerousdecibels.org)

Decibels (dB) are a unit used to measure the intensity of sound. Humans can hear sounds starting at 0 decibels. Extended or repeated exposure of decibels of 85 or higher can cause hearing loss!! Exposure to decibels higher than 140, is painful for our ears and can permanently damage hearing.

Standard headphones, when turned all the way up, can emit sound as loud as 110 decibels, the equivalent of strapping a power-saw to each ear. We at Crystal Clear Ears recommend you don’t listen to audio devices through headphones/earbuds for longer than 60 minutes a day or at more than 60 percent of the device’s maximum volume.

Protect your child’s ears when enjoying a personal listening device, with these tips:

  • Wear earmuff-style headphones. Your best bet is “noise-cancelling” headphones, which reduce or eliminate background noise. This lessens the need to crank the volume above 50 percent. You can listen to music at a softer volume, for a longer time.
  • Follow the 60/60 rule when wearing ear buds. Keep the volume below 60% and limit the listening to under 60 mins per day.
  • Look for headphones and earbuds that include integrated volume control. These automatically limit the volume to no more than 90 decibels.
  • Buy the newer ear buds that offer a tighter fit to block out more background noise allowing you to listen at a lower volume.
  • Invest in “custom” ear buds made according to an impression taken of your ear canal. These block out the most noise, letting you listen at very low levels. They also provide the best sound quality.
  • Educate children and teenagers. Most have no idea that hearing doesn’t come back once it’s gone.
  • Refer to Australian Hearing at hearing.com.au for their recommendations of specific head phones that will reduce hearing loss. Then go to “Entertainment, TV and Music”.