Turn It Down: Ear Buds and Hearing Loss

Turn It Down: Ear Buds and Hearing Loss

Listen up! The latest research suggests that 97% of children have used a mobile device. Most of these children before the age of one! With this finding, the chances are pretty good that they have also used these devices with earbuds. While these tiny little speakers are convenient, don’t be fooled by their size. Technology has given some earbuds the ability to produce the same noise level as a roaring lawn mower, and at a very short distance to the eardrum.

Consider this: Chainsaws and motorcycle engines create about 100 decibels of sound. That much sound can start to damage a person’s ears after less than half an hour. An MP3 player at 70% of its top volume is about 85 decibels. Consistent exposure to unhealthy noise levels can cause a gradual hearing loss, often times going unnoticed until it’s too late. Once the damage is done – there is no way to reverse it.

The following are suggestions you can use to protect your child’s hearing from these dangerous decibels during earbud use:

KNOW THE 60-60 RULE. When your child is listening to music or playing a movie or video game, it is recommended that the volume be set at no more than 60% of the earbud’s maximum volume and limited to 60 minutes of listening time.

DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR? If you can hear what your child is listening to when they have their earbuds in – then it’s too loud. Only your child should be able to hear the sound from the earbuds.

GO RETRO. Those big, clunky headphones that go over your ears are actually a better option than earbuds because they create more distance between the sound and the eardrum. Earbuds that sit in the ear canal increase the sound’s volume by 6 to 9 decibels – also increasing the chance for permanent damage to the hearing. Although headphones may be a better option, they too can cause damage to your child’s hearing if the volume is too loud for too long.

SIGNS OF DAMAGE: If your child reports a decrease in hearing or a ringing or buzzing sound in their ears, it is important to follow-up with your pediatrician. These are just some of the warning signs that could indicate a noise-induced hearing loss. They may refer you to an audiologist, who can give your child a series of tests to see if their hearing has been impacted.

If you need more information about Nationwide Children’s Hearing Program and resources, or to schedule a visit with an audiologist, visit our website.


Krista Winner AuD, CCC-A
Krista Winner is a Clinical Audiologist for the Audiology Department at Nationwide Children's Hospital. She completed her master’s degree in Audiology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in 2004 and her Doctorate of Audiology through the University of Florida in 2006. She practices full-time at Nationwide Children’s performing diagnostic hearing evaluations, Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) testing, hearing aid evaluations/ fittings, and cochlear implants. Krista joined the Audiology Department in January of 2015.

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