Are Headphones Safe For Kids by Dr Chetan Ginigeri

10 min read

Written by Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

A passionate Child Health Advocate, Paediatric Emergency and ICU consultant, Child Safety Expert, Author, and Teambuilder – Dr. Chetan Ginigeri wears different hats according to the role necessit More

Are Headphones Safe For KidsBe it work or just some casual music, we all would like to listen to it with as little disturbance as possible. The headphones can be a great gadget when you want to remove yourself from the world and be immersed in a different world. However, does this apply to our kids as well?

With the worldwide lockdown and schools going online, children have been forced to continue their education online. They have to listen to the teacher through the computer screen. It is not always feasible to provide them a quiet room with zero noise and disturbance. As a result, we are forced to consider headphones, even for young kids. Is this advisable? Should you let your child use headphones? Can you do something to protect their ears? Read on to find out.

In This Article

Is it Safe For Children to Use Headphones and Earbuds?

Technically, yes, they can. There is no medical directive against the use of headphones by children. However, it is not completely safe. Just because there is no rule against it, does not mean it is advisable for children. Continuous usage of headphones can cause many health issues in the child. They can experience ear pains, headaches, hearing loss, etc. So, unless it is absolutely necessary, it is not an ideal gadget for children, especially very young ones.

Using headphones designed specifically for children is definitely safer and more comfortable than the models made for adults.

What are the Cons or Disadvantages of Using Headphones For Children?

girl attending online with headphone

Headphones can be a great gadget for those living in small places and cannot get some quiet corer for the child to attend school from. This gadget could seem like the perfect buy for your child. You may be happy with how focused your child is on their online classes and does not get distracted by outside noise.

However, headphones are not always good news. They have their own set of drawbacks such as:

1. Hearing Loss

This is the biggest drawback and threat when it comes to using headphones for children. Sudden loud noise or continuous exposure to a high decibel can impact their hearing.

2. Headaches

Using headphones continuously can add pressure and cause headaches even in kids.

3. Indifference

When they are cut out from the regular noise around them and the full focus is on what they hear on the headphones; children might become indifferent to their surroundings. They may not get curious or disturbed by a sudden noise, like how a child should ideally get.

4. Inability to Listen

Children may lose the art of listening. They may be able to listen only when it is quiet or when something is told to them into their ears. They may lose their ability to listen and pick up noise and conversations around them. This can negatively impact their listening skills to a great extent.

5. Kills Curiosity

Any time you hear a loud noise or a new sound, your child will run to find out what it is. They are curious by nature to know where that sound came from, why, etc. By using headphones, children are removed from such exposures. They are not curious about their surroundings. This in turn can reduce their ability to “soak” from their environment.

6. Infections

Continuous usage of headphones can lead to ear infections. There is no ventilation, it impacts the ear wax, thus resulting in unhygienic conditions leading to infections.

Children love to share the things parents don’t approve of. Headphones can be one of them. Sharing headphones can transfer germs and cause infections.

7. Behavioral Issues

When children use headphones for recreational purposes or to “keep quiet” in public places, screen time is on the rise. This can lead to many behavioral issues linked to too much screen time.

8. Sweat

Since the ear pads will cover the entire ear and press it against the head, it will cause the child to sweat in those areas. The headphones’ materials are not breathable and there is no ventilation either. This can result in bacteria formation in both the headphones as well as on the skin. If not cleaned properly, it can result in irritation as well as rashes.

9. Ear Pain

girl with ear pain

As the headphones will be putting pressure on the ears; prolonged usage can cause pain in the outer ears. Especially if the fit is not right or if the size is too small, the pressure can be more.

10. Hair Loss

Continuous usage of headphones that rest in the same spot can lead to traction alopecia – hair fall induced by traction. If the band is too tight, you might notice the hair underneath might get thinner than the rest of the head.

[Read : How Will I Know My Child Has Trouble Hearing?]

Headphones For Kids: Do They Really Need Them?

The answer is subjective. With the current “online schooling” situation, not every parent can provide a quiet corner for their child. The child might have to share space with the working parents or another sibling who is also attending class but a different class. The kids cannot get disturbed not can they miss the classes. This is their only mode of education.

In such cases, headphones are a need. The children “need” it.

Similar situations are when you are on a long flight with your child and the airplane has some interesting movies that can keep your kids quiet.

When your kids are used to gadgets – watching videos or playing games when you are out in a public quiet place – like hospitals, clinics, etc.

However, when it comes to recreational purposes or non-Covid times when kids went to physical schools, headphones are definitely not a “need”. Children can listen to their favorite songs or watch movies with the speaker on. They can use additional speakers if needed, rather than headphones.

At the end of the day, it is the parent perception. Medically headphones can cause a lot of damage to your child’s ears. However, you need to assess the situation and decide if you can avoid headphones for your child.

Tips to Buy Safe Headphones For Your Child

We all want nothing but the best for our children. As parents, we do not want to compromise on quality, especially for something as important as headphones. Cutting corners here might have a serious impact on your child’s hearing.

Here are some useful tips to help you buy the headphones for your child:

1. Type

type of headphone

First, decide on what type of headphones you want to buy for your child. Your options are:

a) Circumaural

These are more commonly known as over-ear headphones. They come with big ear pads that can cover the entire ear. The earpads are connected by a band that goes over the head. This model is the biggest model of headphones.

b) Supra-Aural

These are very similar to the circumaural headphones, but the earpads are much smaller in size.

c) Ear Phones

These have been one of the bestselling models for decades. These are inserted into the ears. A wire connects both earphones and the device (phone, tablet, laptop. Etc.)

d) Ear Buds

These are the latest trend when it comes to headphones. They are wireless and can be inserted into the ears. They are almost invisible as they fit snugly into the ears. Also they cancel out outside noise too.

While there are many other models of headphones, they may not be suitable for children. Some models are designed for specific uses. Ensure you don’t buy something like that for your child as it won’t be useful.

[Read : Earplugs For Kids]

2. Fit

Look for headphones that are designed for children. If you are looking to buy for a small child, search accordingly. Headphones for children are much smaller in size than regular ones. Most of the brands have bright colours and designs to attract children.

3. Adjustments

Look for a headphone that gives you enough room to adjust the size. You won’t be able to adjust the ear pads but the connector on top that goes around the head can. this gives you the option of using it for both young and little older kids.

This can be useful when you have more than one child in the house; or if you want to use the headphones for some time to come and not change as your child grows.

4. Weight

Buy headphones that are light. The heavier they are, the more difficult and painful it will be for a child to use the headphones for extended periods of time.

5. Design

design of headphone

This is not important for safety or fitting purposes. Kids’ headphones come in a variety of shades and designs. Choose a colour or character design your child might like. After all, which parent does not want to see their child smile with glee?

6. Volume Control

Provision to limit the volume, so that you can ensure your child does not listen to anything too loud even by mistake. The upper limit should be 85 or just 80 decibels. More than that can cause hearing issues for your child.

7. Noise Cancellation

This can be a helpful feature when you are using them for online classes. This helps your child to hear the teacher well. They won’t have to increase the volume to hear the teacher over all the outside noise.

8. Durability

Kids are hardly careful with their belongings. Headphones with soft ends can be damaged easily. Buy your child a pair that can last long and won’t tear due to nails or pencils.

9. Trial

If permitted, try out the headphones on your child. Sometimes, the headphones could be perfect.

Precautions to Take While Allowing Headphones to Kids

kid having ear pain due headphone usage

The best option would be to avoid headphones for young children, all together. They can use the in-built speakers on laptops and computers to listen to their music, classes, etc. If the volume is not sufficient, you can use extra Bluetooth speakers to increase the volume and audio.

Children Using Headphones: Safety Precautions

When you do let your child use headphones, out of choice or due to lack of choice, here are some safety precautions you need to take:

  • Do not let your child use headphones for many hours at a stretch. If they do need to listen to classes, etc., ensure they take a break from time to time.
  • Do not let them listen to loud music at full volume. An occasional loud song may be nice but making it a habit can cause severe damage to the drums.
  • Opt for over-the-ear headphones than the buds model that can be inserted into the ears. The pressure is lesser and the infection risk is also lower.
  • If possible, limit the maximum volume that can be set in that particular app or program your child is listening to.
  • Despite having a volume cutter, headphones may not be limiting the volume as promised. If you feel it is too loud despite the limit, reduce the volume further.

Children’s Headphone Use: Warning Signs to Watch Out

Once your child starts using the headphones, watch out for these warning signs:

  • Your child keeps pulling out the headphones to rub or fiddle with their ears. This indicates a discomfort they are unable to voice out. Stop usage and use again after some time.
  • Your child complains of discomfort or sensitivity in their ears. This can indicate too much volume or a strain on the eardrums.
  • They keep putting their finger into the ear and meddling with the ear. This is again discomfort that could be caused by too much noise or too little air.
  • Your child complains of pain when you push an earbud into the ear. This could mean the earbuds are too big for their ear canal and are hurting their ears.
  • Your child keeps complaining of pain and is unable to sleep due to it. This could indicate an infection or some damage to the eardrums that require immediate attention from a doctor.
  • Your child complains of headaches. This could indicate an excess usage of headphones or the volume is too high. You will have to discontinue the usage and see if there is a change.
  • Do not let your child share their headphones with their friends. It can transfer germs.

When to Seek Medical Attention?

doctor checking girl's ear

So, when do you see a doctor if your child complains of discomfort while using headphones?

First, discontinue usage for a few days and see the impact on their hearing. If they are still complaining of pain or discomfort, it is time to consult a doctor. It may not be anything serious. It could just be a small infection or wax clogging the canal, but it is safer to get it checked by a professional.

If the ear wax is preventing you from inserting the earbuds in, you need to get it cleaned by a doctor, rather than trying to clean it out yourself.

Anytime your child starts crying or screaming in excess pain after using the headphones, especially with the volume on high, do consult a doctor immediately.

The doctor can just clean out the ears or prescribe some medication based on the complaints. It is best to let the doctor decide, rather than telling them what to do.

Headphones have become a necessity for kids attending schools and classes online. While it can be very useful and convenient to use headphones, it is not recommended. Continuous exposure to loud sounds can affect the hearing ability to a great extent. Use this gadget with caution, especially when it comes to children. Opt for alternate solutions as and when possible.

[Read : Top 10 Tips For Internet Safety For Kids]

FAQ’s

1. Are Earbuds Better Than Headphones For My Child?

No, definitely not. Headphones go over the entire ear. Earbuds on the other hand need to be inserted into the ear canal. If the buds are too big, it can cause pain and injury to the ear. Small buds can fall out and kids are experts in losing things.

2. How Many Hours Can I Let My Child Use Headphones?

Ensure you don’t let them use it for more than two hours at a stretch. Encourage them to take breaks. Switch between headphones and speakers as and when possible. If they are stuck in day-long classes, let them use the computer or phone’s speaker instead of headphones.

3. Can Loud Noise on Headphones Affect My Child’s Hearing?

Yes, it can. Constant exposure to loud noise over headphones can result in sound-induced hearing loss. Ensure you reduce the volume and limit it if possible.

4. Can Headphones Increase Ear Wax Formation?

Yes, it can. the constant exposure to noise and lack of ventilation due to the ear pads covering the ears can increase the secretion of ear wax. This can in turn affect the sound quality or your hearing ability.

5. Can I Clean My Child’s Ears With Buds and Let Them Use Headphones?

No, cleaning the ear using buds is not advisable. Doctors are strictly against it. The act of cleaning can either push the wax further in or cause damage to the eardrums. So, take them to an ENT specialist and get them to clean out your child’s ear, professionally.

Read Also: Internet Safety And Its Importance for Children

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Dr. Chetan Ginigeri,MBBS(JIPMER), MD (PGIMER), Fellowship PICU (Kings College London)
Head of Dept – Paediatric & Neonatal services, Aster CMI Hospital
17 years of experience

Dr Chetan Ginigeri is an experienced Pediatric Intensivist with national and international training. With 15 years of experience, he is one among very few Intensivists in India trained to take care of children who need/had organ transplants. He has been responsible for coordinating the Pediatric Organ Transplant program.Read more.

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