U.S. Parents Worry Popular Technology Use Is Damaging Their Children’s Hearing But Still Plan to Purchase Tech Gifts This Holiday Season

ASHA Shares “Safe Listening” Advice This Cyber Week

December 3, 2019

Related: Holiday Safe Listening Advice for Parents

(Rockville, MD) A new national poll [PDF] of more than 1,100 parents of children under age 18 finds that seven in 10 parents are concerned about their child developing hearing damage from listening to popular technology devices such as music players, tablets, and smartphones—and 86% think their children listen to their devices at volumes that are too loud.

Commissioned by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and conducted by YouGov November 1–5, 2019, the polling also shows that despite concerns, over half of parents plan to purchase a tech-related gift for their child this holiday season. 

“With the holiday shopping season in full swing, many parents are purchasing personal technology devices as well as related accessories such as earbuds or headphones for their kids,” said Shari Robertson, PhD, CCC-SLP, ASHA 2019 President. “For us, this is the ideal time to encourage smart shopping habits for parents as well as offer safe listening advice they can impart to kids as they give them these gifts.”

“Our polling shows many parents have concerns about listening habits and the potential for hearing loss—and they are asking their children to turn down the volume, often to no avail,” Robertson added. “It’s very important that families have the tools to protect this generation’s hearing, especially in light of the World Health Organization reporting that 1.1 billion young people worldwide are at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening to devices and exposure to noisy leisure environments. Clearly, the parental concern ASHA discovered in its polling is not unfounded.”

Other key findings from the poll include the following:

  • 82% of parents say they ask their child to turn down the volume at least sometimes, with 25% reporting they do so “frequently” and 19% “all the time.”
  • More than one third of parents who plan on gifting a tech device had not plannedon talking to their kids about safe listening or hearing protection. 
  • Most parents, although reporting concern, have not taken preventative and protective steps beyond asking their kids to turn down the volume.

Safe Listening Tips

ASHA offers three simple and effective tips for hearing protection:

  1. Turn the Volume Down. Some headphones marketed for children claim to have maximum noise output levels that won’t damage hearing. But studies have shown that these claims aren’t always reliable. Teach kids to keep the volume at half level.
  1. Take Listening Breaks. Encourage kids to take listening breaks every hour, even if for just a few minutes. This can make a big difference to their hearing health.
  1. Model Safe Listening. Practice what you preach. Be mindful of your own volume and listening duration.

Shopping Tips

As you shop, consider whether products have the following:

  • Volume-Control Features. Devices and accessories with parental controls such as volume limiters can help with safe listening. As indicated, however, these aren’t always 100% reliable—so check in on the volume yourself, as well.
  • Noise-Cancelling Capabilities. Earbuds or headphones with noise-cancelling features can lessen the need to turn up the volume, since outside noise is reduced or eliminated.
  • Kid-Size Fit. A snug fit is important, as loose-fitting earbuds or headphones can cause sound leakage—and may be yet another reason to crank the volume. 

ASHA encourages these protective measures for children of all ages—from toddlers to teenagers. Although it may be more difficult for parents to influence teenagers’ listening habits, they may want to consider using techniques like developing a Family Technology Plan, where practicing safe listening is a formal condition of tech privileges.

For more information, visit www.asha.org/public and www.communicationandtech.org

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)

ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 204,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders.


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