As earbuds for school become more integrated into classrooms and learning environments, it is essential to take steps that can help to prevent potential hearing damage during use. This has become a greater emphasis for some, especially with the increased use of tablets and other mobile devices commonly used for interactive learning applications.
Learning Headphones has created a list of best practices to consider when using school earbuds or school earphones. There are several key benefits earbuds can bring that range from convenience, easy portability, better background noise isolation, and affordability. With the use of earbuds comes the potential for hearing loss or hearing damage if the volume is turned up too high. When someone experiences hearing impairment, it is referred to as noise-induced hearing loss or NIHL. This is what makes safety precautions so important.
There are two scenarios that increase risk for hearing damage, sound levels & extended use duration.
When the volume is turned up louder than 85 decibels (DB) it is considered a dangerous level and can cause hearing damage. When sound levels reach above 120 decibels, it even has the potential to cause pain. Earbuds are worn directly inside the student’s ear canal. The proximity, in turn, reduces the amount of sound that escapes and increases the actual loudness.
Students should be asked to set their volume at a level they feel comfortable & then double-check to ensure the amount is in fact at a safe level. Please encourage students to use a safe volume level by explaining the importance of hearing and describe the potential risks when it is turned up too high. If ears are continually exposed to loud noise for extended periods, they can adapt. An adaptation such as this may create a desire to increase volume levels, which leads to increased risk of hearing damage.
The length of use with earbuds can also lead to an increased risk of hearing damage. It has been documented that with brief exposure to 90 decibels may not damage hearing, but if they are exposed to these volume levels for extended periods, the risk increases. For example, if someone were to be exposed to 90 decibels for three consecutive hours, it could potentially cause the same damage as listening to volume levels at 150 decibels for 30 seconds.
To summarize, the two main risk factors are high volume levels and extended use. If students are already using earbuds at a volume level greater than 85 decibels, and they are doing so for an extended period, there is a significantly higher risk of permanent noise-induced hearing loss.
Here is a list of familiar sounds and their volume levels to help get a better sense of different volume levels.
Common Volume Levels
Students whispering - 20dB
Air conditioner / Heater - 40dB
Group discussion - 60dB
Highway traffic - 80dB
Lawn mower - 90dB
Front row at a rock concert - 120db
200 Marching band members - 130db
Fire cracker - 140dB
(NHIL) or Noise-Induced Hearing Loss can happen when loud sounds cause molecules to form in the ear, which can cause damage to small sensory cells. When this damage reaches a certain point, it can become irreversible. Younger students are at exceptionally high risk, and increased precautions should be taken.
The best way to help avoid noise-induced hearing loss, make sure audio levels are below 85 decibels and avoid extended use. While it can be challenging to know exactly how loud the volume is, you can use some comparisons to give you a better idea. City traffic noise, household vacuum cleaners and noisy restaurants have previously been rated at approximately 85 decibels.
With the ability to help shape students’ habits, you can try out the 60/60 rule. This means that a maximum of 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes per day. Keep in mind that your device volume settings may vary and should always be double checked for safe listening levels. Another good rule that some like to use is setting the volume at what you feel is perfect, then turn it down a little bit.
School earbuds are an effective and affordable option for audio learning activities. By using these as a guidelines and developing your own best practices, you can help reduce risks of hearing damage when they are used in learning environments. If you have any questions regarding school earbuds, please contact us and our team would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
For additional information on keep students ears safe, we have included some helpful resources below.