Consumers have been warned in recent years by scientific research, news reports and public-service campaigns about the dangers of listening to music at excessive volume levels or for extended periods of time through earbuds and related in-ear devices, which deliver sound directly down the ear canal. If used unwisely, these products can potentially inflict permanent hearing damage or loss.
But this cautionary message is typically targeted at adults and teens, and may not have reached young children who use portable audio devices, and therefore risk hearing damage at a younger age.
A newly formed national coalition is launching a public campaign to appeal directly to children—as well as parents, guardians and educators—about the hearing-health dangers posed by in-ear devices. The American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA; www.asha.org), a professional association based in Rockville, Md., has joined forces with Parents’ Choice Foundation (www.parents-choice.org) in Timonium, Md., a nonprofit that provides guidance on quality children’s media and toys, to create the “Listen To Your Buds” (www.listentoyourbuds.org) campaign.
For this campaign, both organizations are enlisting the help of musicians who are popular with children to share the message of safe listening with their audiences. Five-time Parents’ Choice Award-winner Justin Roberts (www.justinroberts.org) will offer the first “Listen To Your Buds” concert in Chicago on November 19 at the Museum of Science and Industry.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to entertain and educate children with my music in a fun and lighthearted way,” Roberts says. “It’s an honor to be at the forefront of the ASHA and Parents’ Choice coalition. I hope my fellow musicians will join me as we support this important initiative.”
Musicians who are interested in promoting Listen To Your Buds are asked to sign a pledge and abide by the campaign’s three rules for safe listening:
1. Keep the volume down. A good guide is half volume.
2. Limit listening time. Give your hearing “quiet breaks.”
3. Upgrade your earbuds to earphones that fit outside the ear and block out unwanted sound. You can also upgrade to earphones that fit snugly into the ear canal and do the same thing.
ASHA’s broader effort is being sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Califone International, Unwired Technology, and the rock group O.A.R.
“Growing numbers of individuals across the age spectrum are increasingly using personal listening devices,” says ASHA executive director Arlene Pietranton. “The risk of loud noises is more likely now because of the proximity of the sound delivery with personal listening devices. [Listen To Your Buds] is part of an overall public education campaign. The opportunity to partner with established entities that have an existing network or coalition, and to have access to their network to help get the word out, is, we think, a really effective approach.”
“We are very enthusiastic about giving children and parents, through ASHA’s campaign, the information they need to use personal audio technology safely,” says Parents’ Choice president Claire Green. “Our joint effort promises to be a fun and creative way to foster hearing health and prevent hearing loss.”
“To be able to encourage safe listening habits from the beginning—instead of having to break a bad habit—is definitely preferable,” adds Pietranton.