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Earbuds are damaging kids' hearing, audiologists say

Posted at 12:40 AM, Feb 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-06 09:52:08-05

The World Health Organization estimates over a billion young people are at risk for hearing loss because they use earbuds. 

Audiologists say listening to music on an iPhone at full volume any longer than five minutes is unsafe and the warning signs can be subtle. 

"The child is mishearing certain words, it's not that they don't hear you they may just misunderstand what you're saying or they're having more difficulty hearing in a noisy setting when there's a lot of background noise or more than one speaker," said Dr. Katie Pawlowski, an audiologist.

According to experts, parents who allow kids use headphones should take these important steps:

  • If you can hear it, it is too loud
  • Keep the volume around 50 percent
  • Have your child take breaks to let ears rest

"I'm seeing a lot of increase in tinnitus, of ringing in the ears, in younger children," said Pediatric ENT Dr. Karin Hotchkiss. "Normally, older people could express that they were having ringing or buzzing, thinking that was just more common as we age. Now, we're seeing an increase in teenagers and even younger children, as down to age four or five."

Hotchkiss says using headphones that go into the ear canal can up the ante nine or 10 decibels. That's the equivalent of a jet plane taking off. 

Here's how to cap the volume on Apple iPhones:

  1. Click the gear icon to take you to "Settings"
  2. Scroll down to "Music"
  3. Toward the bottom you should see "Volume Limit"
  4. Set the volume to desired volume
  5. To set that limit, go back to the main settings menu and find "General"
  6. Once you click that, find "Restrictions"
  7. You'll be instructed to put in a 4-digit passcode
  8. Scroll down to the menu items labeled "Allow Changes," there you'll see "Volume Limit"
  9. Make sure "Don't Allow Changes" has a check mark next to it

 

Hotchkiss recommends these headphones which have a decibel limit and are safe for kids. The third pair is a limiting cable that will lessen the decibels.