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Are your child's headphones damaging their hearing?

When she's not writing, Claire Gillespie can most often be found wiping snotty noses, picking up Lego, taking photos of her cat or doing headstands.

Despite manufacturers' claims, kids' headphones may be making their ears bleed

We trust manufacturers to tell us the truth about the children's products they market to us, which is particularly important when an item has the potential to cause our kids harm.

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Given the pleasure our little ones get from anything that blasts noise at them in some form or other, most parents have at least one set of sanity-preserving kids' headphones in their homes. When the Xbox or YouTube or Justin Bieber really isn't what you want the soundtrack to your day to be, pop the headphones on your kid and peace and quiet is restored.

But at what cost? According to a recent report by The Wirecutter, The New York Times product recommendations website, half of 30 sets of children's headphones they tested failed to restrict volume to the guaranteed limit. So while your ears may be safe from the noise, your children's may not be.

Which means assurances such as "safe for young ears" and "100 percent safe listening" shouldn't be believed without further investigation.

The headphones that performed worst when tested produced sound so loud it could damage ears in a matter of minutes.

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Dr. Blake Papsin, the chief otolaryngologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, didn't mince his words when responding to the results of the study. "Headphone manufacturers aren’t interested in the health of your child’s ears," he said. "They are interested in selling products, and some of them are not good for you."

One major issue here is that there is no mandatory standard restricting the maximum sound output for listening devices or headphones sold in the United States, so manufacturers aren't breaching any regulations (although they are clearly misleading consumers with their safety claims).

If your child wears headphones or you're figuring out which ones to buy, check out the Wirecutter study results in full to see how they measure up. Your responsibility doesn't stop there. The following tips will help protect your child's ears from damage.

  • Keep the volume no higher than 60 percent.
  • Encourage your child to take breaks from listening every hour to allow the hair cells in the inner ear to rest.
  • Make sure your child, when wearing headphones, can still hear what you say when you speak to them an arm's length away.

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