Friday, May 25, 2012

The Trouble with Earbuds

My "Tech Teacher Interview" with Julie King this week gave me some new article ideas. One of Julie's recommendations for parents is to put a limit to kids' earbud use. She says:
"I would...suggest that parents discourage constant earbud use. While parents may not want to listen to their kids music of choice, when kids pick up the habit of popping earbuds in often it's easy to miss lots of opportunities to connect."
I thought that was beautifully stated. Just like the constant use of computers or smart phones can hamper meaningful one-on-one communication, we can close off ourselves with persistent use of iPods and mp3 player.

William Clark, a leading audiologist at Washington University in St. Louis says that people sometimes have their earbuds in all day long (See Kids' Use of Earbuds Worries Hearing Experts, NPR). And that can be a problem, not just because of missed communication opportunities, but also because of hearing concerns. Audiologists have several recommendations for earbud use:
  • Limit earphone listening to an hour a day, at a setting no greater than six on a 10-notch scale.
  • If someone can hear earphone "leakage" from several feet away, it is probably too loud.
  • If someone has ringing in the ears or a feeling of fullness in the ear, or if speech sounds muffled after a listening session, the music was too loud.
I've also read that it's safer for kids to use traditional headphones rather than earbuds. See an MSNBC article for alternatives that might be kinder to children's ears.

Problems with hearing often worsen slowly, so it's hard to pinpoint the effects of exposure to loud noises through earbuds or by other means. However, Clark says that "the ravages of other exposures plus normal aging will contribute to an accelerated hearing loss when today's kids are in their 50s and 60s."

Last winter I took my kids roller skating for the first time. We had a blast, although the music in the skating rink was loud. Very, very loud, the kind of loud that makes your ears ache and ring. The next time I took the girls skating, I brought ear plugs for everyone. My kids grumbled a little bit and my husband called me "granny," but they all got used to it, and I think they probably appreciated it in the end.

Julie King's suggestion to discourage earbuds might be met with some initial resistance too, but if parents are consistent and clear about their rules, kids will get used to it, and maybe one day appreciate their parents for taking a stand.

No comments:

Post a Comment