I tested headphones for school children. Some were worried and loud.

Noise-induced hearing loss is a serious problem (PDF) that can affect millions of adolescents and writes extensively about the risks inherent in using unlimited volume headphones for children. Parents have some control over their child’s use of headphones at home, but what if the child has to use school headphones for in-class learning? As the use of digital media in education increases, so does the use of headphones in the classroom. But are school headphones safe? How loud are the children listening? And how long is it? We decided to measure school headphones and discuss their use with parents and children to determine as much as possible if they were experiencing dangerous levels of sound while at school.

How big are school headphones?

As the best kids’ headphone guide, we tested almost every headphone sold for kids at home to determine if it’s within a safe volume range. However, we have not investigated other categories of headphones that are sold directly to educational institutions through sites such as School Specialty and Learning Headphones. Apparently it’s a big business, and one headphone rep says their company has 2.7 million headphones in more than 10,000 schools across the United States.

Looking at the headphones offered on some of these websites, among the dozens of models, only a few of the dozens of models advertised as volume-restricted headphones were JLab JBuddies Folding, J Buddies Studio Wireless, and Avid AE. .. -twenty five. Also, the volume limit feature wasn’t prominently listed. I had to look through the spec and find a reference to it.

From this experience, I wondered how loud the typical headphones sold in schools would be. So I bought a lot of test models such as Avid AE-36, Califone CA-2, Egghead 1005FAUSB, HamiltonBuhl SchoolMate, Learning Headphones. LH-55, and ThinkWrite TW110 and TW210. We tested the maximum volume in the same way as the guides for the best kids’ headphones (read more about how to test). To consider a headphone set reasonably safe for one hour of continuous listening a day, you should limit it to a maximum output of 85dBA when playing pink noise. Headphone measurements are inherently inaccurate, as are noisy measurements, so tests allow headphones up to 88dBA.

Our tests have shown that headphones from all schools make a lot louder than you want your kids to listen to for a long time. You can see the full results in the chart below. Volume levels from the 90’s to the 100’s are what you would expect when measuring headphones with no volume limit. Three of the school and headphone pairs tested can exceed 100 decibels. This is a level that can damage your hearing in just 15 minutes. If you are testing these pairs as a guide for children’s headphones, the volume level will be considered unacceptable and will be rejected.

A graph comparing the pink noise of some headphones with the maximum volume level of music.
Chart: wire cutter

Well, they are noisy. Is it really important?

How annoying are these loud levels in a school environment? When evaluating children’s headphones as a guide, we assume that the headphones will be used for entertainment such as music, movies, games, etc. that the child wants to listen to at a higher level. However, the types of media children hear at school can be quite different. Many educational programs consist of speeches (for example, lectures and tutorial videos from remote teachers) and occasional short videos and learning games with sheet music. Few people can resist turning up the volume when jamming to their favorite song, but how many people want to turn it up to 11 when a science teacher is explaining the life cycle of a bee? ?? (Even the most enthusiastic appearists probably don’t listen to spoken content so loudly.)

The type of media a student engages in on an education day and the length of time they spend doing so both depend on the child’s age, grade, and school. We talked to 12 parents from all over the country with children from kindergarten to high school, and one reported that they enjoyed more than an hour of video, music, and games with headphones. There were no people. in class. Most children said they use school headphones less than twice a week.

Also, the majority of children who used headphones provided by the school said they were not allowed to take them home. For this reason, and due to the rarity of loud noises in educational programming, we concluded that uncontrolled headphones purchased at school pose little risk to most students with healthy ears.

A cane that won’t fall

If you’re worried about how much noise your child will be exposed to from school headphones, we recommend the following: Ask the child (or his teacher) how long the student is wearing headphones on school day. If your child uses headphones on a regular basis, it is advisable to provide a volume limiting pair if you can send them yourself at school. Pairs that work both wired and wireless are best because they can easily connect to almost any device.

Consider consulting with your teacher or your school’s IT leader about setting volume limits on your school’s device (more on this in your child’s noise-induced hearing loss article). Another option is to work with the PTA or school board to encourage purchasing power to order volume-restricted headphones the next time they replace educational technology, or the school will accept donations. , Is to see if you want to organize a fundraiser.

And as always, teach and practice healthy listening habits. Children who use headphones at home after school while practicing bus or sports are at much greater risk than children who use headphones with no volume restrictions only in a 30-minute computer class at school. Follow safety tips, such as setting device volume limits and providing hearing protection for loud events, to limit noise exposure at home.

Talk about the habit of listening to your child in the same way you talk about other health concerns. Indeed, they sometimes (or regularly) need reminders in the same way you have to bother them about eating healthy foods and wearing mouthguards in hockey practice. maybe. But hearing health care is a lesson worth learning early, as evidenced by Dave Grohl, Chris Martin, and many other musicians with deafness.

This article was edited by Adrian Maxwell and Grant Clauser.

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