Can they hear you now? Kids increasingly exposed to noise health risks via earbuds and headphones

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, a recent national poll reveals a notable trend: the increasing use of headphones and earbuds among young children.

Rising Trend Among Younger Children

According to a survey conducted by the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, it’s not just teenagers who are commonly seen with headphones; younger children are also embracing this trend.

Extent of Usage

The poll indicates that two out of three parents have noticed their children between the ages of 5 and 12 using personal audio devices. Remarkably, half of the parents of 5 to 8-year-olds report their young ones using such devices.

Daily Usage Patterns

Among parents whose children use headphones or earbuds, half state that their children spend at least an hour each day with these devices. Moreover, one in six parents reveals that their child uses them for a minimum of two hours daily.

Can they hear you now? Kids increasingly exposed to noise health risks via earbuds and headphones

Concerns Raised

Dr. Susan Woolford, a pediatrician and co-director of the Mott poll, highlights the growing concern regarding the potential risks associated with excessive use of audio devices among younger children.

While the historical focus has been on teenagers, the increasing popularity of earbuds among younger age groups is worrisome, exposing them to heightened noise levels regularly.

Impact on Health

The exposure to prolonged and intense noise poses significant risks to children’s health. Dr. Woolford emphasizes that young children are particularly vulnerable due to their developing auditory systems and smaller ear canals.

Prolonged exposure to high volumes of noise can lead to irreversible hearing loss or conditions like tinnitus.

Usage Patterns

Children primarily use these devices at home, school, and in transit, with a significant portion also using them during air travel. However, only a small percentage use them outdoors or in bed.

Parental Perceptions

While half of the parents believe that headphones or earbuds help in keeping their children entertained, there’s a lack of awareness among many parents regarding the potential risks associated with excessive usage.

Recommendations to Mitigate Risks

Dr. Woolford offers practical tips for parents to minimize the risks associated with headphone and earbud usage:

1. Monitor Volume Levels

Parents should regulate the volume and duration of their children’s device usage. Adhering to the 60/60 rule—limiting usage to no more than 60 minutes a day at 60% of the maximum volume—is advisable.

Additionally, parents can gauge if the volume is too loud if they cannot be heard by their child from an arm’s length away.

2. Opt for Noise Cancelling or Volume Limiting Headphones

When purchasing audio devices, parents should opt for products that limit volume to safer levels. However, they should avoid noise-cancelling devices in situations where auditory awareness is crucial for safety.

3. Encourage Breaks and Device-Free Time

Children should have designated breaks from personal listening devices to prevent overexposure. Parents can encourage alternative activities, like listening to music at a low volume, to reduce noise intensity.

4. Watch for Signs of Hearing Loss

Parents should be vigilant for early signs of hearing loss, such as asking for repetition, experiencing ringing noises, or speaking loudly. Consulting healthcare professionals for guidance and support is crucial if any concerns arise.


As the use of headphones and earbuds becomes increasingly prevalent among younger children, it’s essential for parents to be mindful of the potential risks and take proactive measures to protect their children’s hearing health.

By implementing simple strategies, such as monitoring usage and encouraging breaks, parents can help mitigate the adverse effects of prolonged exposure to high volumes of noise.

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