You listened to loud music when you were a kid, so how can it be dangerous to your child? “The circumstances are now much different than when parents were teenagers,” says Jill Byrd, AuD, an audiologist with Birmingham Speech and Hearing Associates. “Noise is now closer to the ear, and there’s more noise-producing toys, like video games.”
Do you hear music? “MP3 players and iPods can be dangerous when used without restriction,” says Dr. Byrd. Because not only do kids turn them up too loud, but the average teen listens to these devices two to four hours a day. One study showed that 39% of 18- to 24-year-olds listen to at least 105 decibels of noise for at least an hour a day. “They should not be tolerating that level for more than 25 minutes in a whole week,” stresses Dr. Byrd.
The danger of earbuds. “Earbuds can facilitate higher levels of sound, because the softer material conforms better to the ear canal than older earphones. Those didn’t create as much of a seal as earbuds do,” explains Dr. Byrd. “And parents have no idea what damage can be done on an hourly basis because of the type of listening device as well as the duration of exposure to the loudness.”
When you see the signs. If your child shows signs of hearing problems, “then run to the audiologist to get a hearing test,” says Dr. Byrd. “Because if damage has been done, there’s still likely a lot of good hearing left, and you need to learn to protect what’s left.”
What’s a safe volume setting? “In general, keep the volume to 60% or less of what the volume control can be set at,” says Dr. Byrd. “If I can hear the music from my child’s earbuds when I’m standing at a normal conversational distance, then it’s too loud.”
They should hear your voice. “If you speak to your child in a normal voice at a conversational level while they’re wearing earbuds, they should be able to hear enough to know you’ve said something even though they may not be able to understand what you said,” says Dr. Byrd. Otherwise, it’s set too loud.
Noise-induced hearing loss in teens is so new that studies on the effect of these new technologies are just surfacing. “We used to think of this hearing loss primarily in older men who were factory workers or war veterans,” says Dr. Byrd. “That’s why it’s important that parents become aware of recreational noise exposure in our teenagers now.”