Safe Personal Listening Loudness Limiting Headphones for Children Ages 2 to 12

[revised 11/25/17] A 2012 Survey found over 50% of people aged 3 to 74 use headphones or earbuds for personal listening. Currently the majority of personal listening headphones for children have no loudness limit. The volume can go well over 85 dBA avg or 100 dB max: the international standard for sound level limits described in Make Listening Safe, by the World Health Organization. This means there isn’t safe personal listening for kids.

thewirecutter.com scientific study on 50 models of loudness limiting headphones for kids found 20 were so bad they weren’t even worth testing. Of the rest, design flaws let kids easily bypass loudness limit settings. And 50% of so called “loudness limiting” headphones advertised as safe for kids went well over 85 dB when scientifically tested at full volume. Noise trauma. Permanent hidden painless damage to hearing nerves and inner ears.

What if this was air bags in cars? What if 50% of car manufacturers didn’t actually install air bags that worked? So once a year, some kind smart souls share a list on the internet of car models with air bags that worked as advertised. Would society put up with that?

Science on noise-induced hidden hearing loss suggests the safe human listening limit is 70 dB average.

Children Under 12

  • For now, choose 85 dB loudness limiting headphones proven to work as advertised. The Wirecutter safe picks are:
    1. Top Pick that Grows with Kids = Puro Sound Labs BT2200 Premium Kids Headphones
    2. Runner-up Corded Pick for Toddlers ages 2-4 = Explore Volume Limiting Kids Headphones
    3. Runner-up Wired or Wireless Pick for Kids ages 4-12 = JLab Audio JBuddies Studio
  • Push for 70 dBA avg and 100 dB peak loudness limits and oversight for all headphones manufactured for personal listening and/or similar mandatory device limits.
  • Engineering fix for personal listening permanent noise trauma.

Children 12 and Over

  • Do they want to use earbuds instead of headphones? For now, there’s no 85 dB avg loudness limit in earbuds manufactured for personal listening that I could find. Science on loudness difference between style of iPod earbuds shows user volume less than 50% won’t cause hearing damage no matter how long the person listens.
  • Push for 70 dBA avg and 100 dB peak loudness limit and oversight for all earbuds manufactured for personal listening and/or similar mandatory device limits.
  • Engineering fix for personal listening permanent noise trauma.

If ears bled, I am positive manufacturers would make product with safe loudness limits for personal listening already. If parents as a group don’t advocate for their children and demand the safe product they want, I’m afraid it will never happen.

The problem isn’t really with the device. Devices need higher volume when connected to speakers. The problem is the earbuds and headphones. The Journal of the American Pediatric Association declined to publish a paper on hearing loss risk in children from personal listening headphones that don’t safely limit loudness as claimed by manufacturers. The US Federal Trade Commission Division of Advertising Practices said they won’t address false advertising in kid’s headphones.

What does the general public need to do to get governments to regulate loudness limits on devices and/or earbud-headphone manufacturers, including independent quality control, to make sure they work as claimed to make sure all consumers are protected?

Jan L. Mayes MSc writes horror fiction and non-fiction, and is an international Eric Hoffer Award winning author, blogger and audiologist specializing in noise, tinnitus-hyperacusis, hearing health education and plotting murders. Her writing has been featured at Tinnitus Today, Communique, silencity.com and The Horror News Daily.

Photo Credit iabzd at Unsplash