It's a relief when the kids have earphones on a long road trip. It beats grown-ups being forced to listen to their repetitive video-game noises, teeny-bop tunes or jarring cartoon sound tracks. But while you're enjoying the calm, the kids might be doing themselves permanent damage, warns the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Listening for too long on too-loud headphones can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. ASHA points to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found one in five teens now suffer from some hearing loss. Whassatyousay?
One rule of thumb: If you can distinctly hear what your children are listening to on their earphones, they're playing the music too loud. Tell them to turn down the volume by half.
Don't want to be confrontational? Give your kids earphones that automatically put a clamp on excess volume -- if you can find them. Both Fisher-Price Kid-Tough earphones and Ultimate Ears' Loud Enough ear buds were recently discontinued. (Online closeouts of Ultimate Ears are going for $8 to $65.)
To the rescue comes Maxell and its reasonably priced ($12-$13) Kids Safe Headphones and Ear Clips, which output no more than 90 decibels of sound "versus the 100 to 104 decibels of standard phones," said a company representative. Sounds like a 10 percent reduction, but really it's more like 40 percent.
Maxell's expanding headband Kids Safe KHP-2 Headphones offer decent fidelity. The limiting process (Maxell is short on details) is done without cutting out high or low frequencies, so the listener doesn't lose the musicality.
With Putumayo Kids' global-themed "Animal Playground" album, even hard-to-reproduce instruments such as flute, violin and brushed drums were revealed with reasonable detail. Voices sounded natural, and deep bass tones had some depth.
Visit www.listentoyourbuds .org to learn more, and take a vow to save kids' hearing. Unlike a CD player or iPod, ears are not replaceable.