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Blasting their music or spending hours playing video games is a part of how our kids unwind. But what they don’t realize is that all those hours of noise may damage their hearing permanently. “Kids who use earbuds and headphones are at an increased risk of developing hearing loss at earlier ages,” says Alfred Tallia, MD, MPH, professor and chair of Family Medicine and Community Health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Studies suggest that 1 in 5 teens will end up with hearing loss as a result of unsafe listening habits.” That doesn’t mean they can’t wear earbuds and headphones, but here’s how to teach kids to use them more safely:

TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT THE DANGERS OF NOISE

While normal conversation is around 60 decibels, the upper volume level on devices may reach 100 to 115 decibels, which can cause hearing damage in minutes. You can download a free sound level meter app to measure noise levels, but the bottom line is if you can hear their music when their earbuds are in, it’s too loud, says Tallia.

SET VOLUME LIMITS ON DEVICES

Teach kids to keep devices at half volume by adjusting the volume limit setting feature, suggests the American Academy of Pediatrics. Also, encourage them to take listening breaks every hour because even a few minutes of quiet can be beneficial.

PROTECT YOUR OWN HEARING

Practice what you preach. Make it a family habit that everyone uses hearing protection for noisy activities such as mowing the lawn or using a leaf blower, says Tallia.

MAKE SURE KIDS GET REGULAR HEARING SCREENINGS

Research has found that roughly 12 to 17 percent of middle and high schoolers already have measurable hearing loss, probably from excessive noise exposure. Make sure your kids receive screenings at ages 11-14, 15- 17, and 18-21 years old. Regular screenings are the best strategy to help catch issues early on.

— Arricca Elin SanSone is a New York-based health and lifestyle writer.

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