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The Headphone Fad - Mixed Signals to Our Children

Synopsis: Given a choice between ear buds and retro headphones the latter offers less risk of ear damage, providing they are used properly.1

Author: Adam Kutner

Published: 2013-02-27 Updated: 2013-06-16

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If you have kids, they're probably very much into the latest headphone rage. With a pair of high class headphones, they can tune into their favorite music anytime, anywhere without distraction or care. When used properly, headphones can be practical and useful gadgets that enhance musical pleasure. But what happens when this equipment is misused or overused or handled without wisdom and care

Most of today's contemporary gadgets were designed to be used with moderation and headphones are no exception. Although the use of headphones is extremely widespread in society today, recent studies reveal that this equipment may not be as safe as it may seem. A recent University of Leicester study conducted by lead researcher Dr. Martine Hamann discovered a direct link between loud noises and hearing loss. Dr. Hamann's research revealed that using headphones with a consistent, loud volume actually stripped off the coating of auditory nerve cells which prevented electrical signals from being transmitted to the brain, resulting in temporary deafness.

According to, one out of every five teens today suffers from hearing loss. This is an increase of almost 30% from the 1980-90's era. Many doctors contribute this to the increase in the use of headphones. Ironically, the problem is not so much with the headphone itself, but the misuse of this equipment that causes so many problems.

Ear Buds - Are They Safe

You remember the early Apple iPod commercials with the black shadow silhouettes dancing with only the white iPod ear bud cable shining against the darkness. Ear buds are extremely useful and convenient to use, yet these compact little gadgets are comparable to having mini-speakers blasting in your ear. Obviously, the louder you turn up the volume, the greater the risk of suffering from permanent hearing loss. A typical MP3 player at 70% volume creates a sound level of 85 decibels, which over time can begin to cause damage to your ear. Few young people, however, utilize their equipment at 70% volume, especially when most MP3s have the capability to reach 120 decibels. When you combine such high noise levels with extended listening periods, it's no wonder many of our youth are suffering from loss of hearing.

Girl singing with headphones on
Girl singing with headphones on

Because ear buds are designed to direct sound directly into your inner ear, they pose an even greater risk to hearing loss. Your kids will not experience hearing loss immediately, which may give them the impression that there is no risk involved. However, the risk is very high and by the time you or they notice a problem with their hearing, permanent damage may already be done. Some signs that indicate something may be wrong with their hearing are:

Not everyone that uses ear buds suffers problems with loss of hearing. By keeping volume levels down and being moderate with in-ear bud use, ear buds can be perfectly safe to use. It's just a matter of using wisdom in how loud and how long you use your product so as not to strain and damage your ears. We know our teenagers are full of wisdom, right

What About Retro Headphones

Given a choice between ear buds and retro headphones, the latter offers less risk of ear damage, providing they are used properly. With over-the-ear headphones, the sound is more spread out over the ear rather than pinpointed in one area. Noise canceling headphones block outside noises so it is not necessary to turn the volume up so high. Even so, if young people are not trained to keep the volume at moderate levels, they could still run the risk of damaging their ears. Using a retro headset in itself will not guarantee your kid's safety from hearing loss if it is not used as it should be.

Taking into consideration the risk of headphone use to your hearing, doctors have come up with what they feel is a reasonable formula for headphone usage that can help prevent loss of hearing. This 60/60 formula is based on keeping the volume level at 60% and limiting listening times to 60 minute intervals. Your kids may feel these levels are way too low, but the alternative of permanent hearing loss is too great a risk to take unwarranted chances. Hearing loss due to excessive exposure to loud noises is often permanent. For this reason, doctors feel preventative measures should be put into place to protect and preserve the hearing of our young people before it is too late.

Headphones have their place in enhancing musical enjoyment and appreciation. By learning to be moderate in their use, your kids can benefit from all that headphones have to offer without of danger or harm.

About the Author: Adam writes for, an Oklahoma based hearing aid company with over 40 years of experience.

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Cite Page: Journal: Disabled World. Language: English (U.S.). Author: Adam Kutner. Electronic Publication Date: 2013-02-27. Last Revised Date: 2013-06-16. Reference Title: The Headphone Fad - Mixed Signals to Our Children, Source: <a href=>The Headphone Fad - Mixed Signals to Our Children</a>. Abstract: Given a choice between ear buds and retro headphones the latter offers less risk of ear damage, providing they are used properly. Retrieved 2021-03-01, from - Reference Category Number: DW#167-9604.