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Keep It Down


Headphones are helpful. We use them to listen to music without disturbing others. Many kids use them in school.

But headphones can be harmful, too. They can cause hearing loss if the volume is too loud. Studies show that one out of every 10 kids in the United States has some hearing loss. The cause is loud noise.

Headphones are good for blocking out noise. But keep the volume low to prevent damage to your ears.


How Hearing Works

There are cells inside the ear that help you hear. They can only be seen with a microscope. “We call them hair cells,” Jackie Clark told TIME for Kids. “They look like hairs standing up.” Clark is a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. She studies how loud noises affect our ears.

Sound is invisible. But it moves in waves. It makes the hair cells move back and forth. Think of the wind in the leaves.

Loud noises can damage these cells. The cells scrape against the ear. This gets them twisted and bent. And once the cells are damaged, they don’t grow back.

Protect your ears from loud noises. Damage to the cells in your ears can’t be undone.


Protect Your Ears

One sign of hearing loss is tinnitus. It’s a ringing in the ears. “It’s like someone is playing a note on the flute for a long time,” Clark says. “There’s no getting rid of it.” And the damage affects more than your ears. It can cause anxiety and stress.

How can you protect your ears? Keep the volume on your headphones low. You should be able to hear sounds around you. And other people shouldn’t hear noise from your headphones. “If I can hear what you’re listening to when you’re wearing your headset,” Clark says, “it’s too loud.”

Measuring Sound

It’s a loud world. Lawn mowers can reach 90 decibels.


Sounds are measured in units called decibels. Raindrops are 30 decibels. Fireworks are 140 decibels. What about your headphones? Listening devices can go higher than 100 decibels. That’s too loud. To protect your ears, keep your device at about half volume. And don’t listen too long. About an hour a day is safe.