Parents (USA)

My child wears headphones for school and on long car rides. Can this hurt their hearing?

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YES. Prolonged headphone use can be risky because kids tend to turn up the volume to drown out background noise. Listening at too high a volume for too long can cause permanent hearing damage.

What is “too loud” can vary based on a child’s ear size, type of headphones, and length of listening time. The general rule: If you can hear what your child is listening to while they’re wearing headphones, the volume is too loud. If you worry your child is turning up the volume without your noticing, buy headphones with volume limits.

However, headphones are better for kids than earbuds. These are often not made for a child’s smaller ears, so kids need to turn the volume up even higher in order to compensate for the poor fit.

The best option may be to have your child listen without headphones, period. Just keep in mind that external speakers can also be a hearing hazard if they’re too loud or too close to your kid.

Source: Lisa Vaughan, AU.D., former president of the American Academy of Audiology and audiology program manager at Cook’s Children’s Healthcare System, in Fort Worth.

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