Knowing how to be safe:When using a headphones for toddlers
For better or worse our children are now exposed to and immersed in a world of technology from a shockingly young age. In all areas of innovation, this new trend of youth being inextricably linked with technology has not gone unnoticed.
Products are now being specifically designed for the youngest members of our society. This usually means reduced functionality, basic and robust design, but mainly It means increased safety.
Today we are going to be focusing on the safety of toddler headphones. We will give you an overview of what you should look out for, and some scary statistics you should keep in mind.
Let’s get started.
While this is not going to be the main point of this article, there can be a real choking safety hazard when it comes to headphones and toddlers. It’s something any responsible parent needs to be aware of.
Many earbud headphones that are not “toddler safe” come with easily detachable earpieces that ensure headphones fit snugly in your ears. Any good pair of headphones will come with a selection of (usually 3) different sized buds to improve usability depending upon ear shape and size.
While they are useful items for adults, these little ear pieces are almost custom made choking hazards for toddlers. They are soft and squishy, kids love putting them in their mouths. All reputable western toddler headphone manufacturers are aware of this issue, and many of them do not have removable ear buds. But watch out for cheaper Chinese imports that might not have taken this choking hazard into account.
It can literally be lethal.
Volume is the main headphone specific concern that any responsible parent buying headphones for their toddlers should be aware of. The potential for hearing damage from earbud headphones is something that is overlooked with alarming regularity – even for adults.
The concentrated sound being produced in a totally sealed ear canal is a recipe for disaster. iPhone and Android updates have recently included volume warnings that need to be manually dismissed by the user due to the scale of the problem.
Thousands of adults suffer from hearing loss issues every year due to high volumes being produced by earbud headphones. Despite this being a horrible situation we would not wish on anyone – we would argue that it is the adults own fault.
However, a child does not have the luxury of determining what a safe volume is. They are too young to tie their shoelaces, let alone consider the appropriate duration to decibel ratio for their listening habits.
So the responsibility lies with the parents.
However, to make things even more difficult, parents themselves are often unable to accurately determine what is too loud for a toddler’s ears. The cochlea in a child’s ear is slightly more fragile than adults, and as such children need to be exposed to much lower maximum volumes.
(Additionally, for a child to be truly safe with normal headphones a parent would have to be constantly watching the child ensuring they did not mess with the parent approved volume level).
This is obviously not a practical situation, parents cannot watch their children 100% of the time. So headphone manufacturers stepped up to the plate and created a whole range of “toddler headphones” that have been limited to safe volume levels. However, what started out as a good idea has been warped by many unscrupulous headphone manufacturers. Some (but not all) brands are now producing unreliable limited volume headphones but marketing them as “toddler safe”.
To give you an idea of the potential issues this can cause let’s take a look at some daily decibel levels and compare them to the average maximum volume level of non-limited headphones.
(Before we get into this section it’s important to note that the decibel scale is nonlinear. This means that 50db is twice as loud as 40db).
- Whispering is around 30db, a normal conversation volume is around 60db, a vacuum cleaner is around 75db, and a power lawn mower is around 90db.
- Sounds above 85db are considered to be harmful to your ears, and there is a set amount of time you can be exposed to them before damage occurs. The higher the decibel level, the less time you have. For example, a power lawn mower can be listened to for around 15 minutes before damage starts occurring.
- Earbud headphones (that are non-limited) can regularly reach decibel levels between 100db to 110db. It is important to note that this is an average, this is not just super powerful headphones (which can be much louder).
This means they are between 100% and 400% louder than being exposed to a power lawn mower. The safe amount of time an adult can be exposed to this level of volume is a matter of seconds. We would argue that the safe amount of time a child can be exposed to it, is 0 seconds.
Good toddler headphones will reliably and constantly regulate the maximum decibel level to under 85db. This is the government approved limit that can be listened to indefinitely without damage being done to the listener’s ears.
There are a number of ways that headphone manufacturers regulate the volume levels output by their headphones. The cheaper brands use simple resistors which can produce excellent restrictive results (when they work as intended). They are prone to failure, and if cheap parts are used, the decibel levels can easily exceed safe limits.
Some premium products use resistors to limit volume too, but they are usually much more reliable and of a higher quality. Premium Bluetooth headphones often use software to limit the maximum volume, which is much more reliable.
The lessons to be learned here are two-fold.
Primarily if you are currently not monitoring your child’s decibel levels and are leaving them with access to unrestricted volume – you need to stop this now. Irreparable damage to your child’s hearing could be happening as you sit here and read this article.
Take the safety of your child’s ears seriously.
Secondly, you need to devote a little time (and possibly money) into researching quality toddler safe headphones that will protect your child’s hearing. Take away the unrestricted headphones they may currently be using and give them a set of new (reliable) headphones that are safe for them to use.
A final tip is that when you get your child new and safe headphones, we highly recommend you don’t tell them they are quieter. Just treat it as a random present from mommy or daddy. They will hopefully not notice the volume difference (which means they were not listening to unsafe levels before).
But if they do complain, you should feel great…
Because you just stopped them from damaging their hearing.