Audiophile earphones that protect kids’ hearing from damage


You’re concerned about your kids’ hearing.  And if you’re here, then you’re likely an audiophile yourself or at the very least a concerned parent and want to protect your child’s hearing and ability to enjoy quality music for a lifetime of enjoyment.

Unfortunately, music played too loudly on a phone or music player can cause long-term, permanent damage.  While there is a way for parents to set a maximum volume level on the devices (see here on how to set volume limits on an iPod, iPhone, or iPad), those solutions can be overcome with a reset of the device and don’t work if kids plug into a laptop or computer.

Loudness of some common (and uncommon) noises
and loudness in db.

What most people don’t know is that it’s easy to cause long-term, permanent hearing damage using a portable music device and digital music.  The chart on the right shows the different types of noises in decibels and the danger those sounds pose to our hearing.  It may come as a surprise that our digital music can reach some of those dangerous levels.

I’ve always advocated that the safety point for kids should be built into the headphones they use.  Such a solution should be simple, straightforward, and without technical knowledge required.

I looked for such a solution for a while.  Finally, I found exactly what I was looking for.  Not only was I pleasantly surprised to find exactly what I was looking for in earphones, but also found they were made by a true audiophile brand—Etymotic Research.

Etymotic is very well known in the audiophile circles as a maker of superb-quality earphones.  Now, Etymotic has put their audiophile pedigree to protecting kids’ hearing.  Etymotic makes two models:

  1. ETY•Kids5 Earphones and
  2. ETY•Kids3 headset and earphones (compatible with Apple’s iPhone and iPad 3-button control)
I’ve had a few pairs of these at my house for about a year and a half. So, I’m not writing this as a “reviewer” but as an parent and audiophile.

Here are my simple, straightforward impressions of the ETYKids after having lived and used the product in my own household:

  1. These are the real deal: everything that Etymotic promises it delivers in these earphones.  They reduce the sound and protect hearing even if the volume is turned up all the way.
  2. These are real earphones not kiddy-phones.  Think about it: why do kids what your stuff?  Because it’s real and kids can always tell when something is a knockoff and not genuine.  The genius of these earphones is that they are real, audiophile earphones and looking at them they look like expensive earphones.  Kids of any age won’t mind looking dorky or odd with them.  They have a great cool-factor.
  3. Compatible with other methods: Even if you have volume control enabled on your device, you can still use the ETY Kids without adverse effects.
  4. Phone-friendly: There is a model that integrates with remote command of your phone or iPad to advance songs and lower/raise volume.
The bottom line is that the ETY Kids models deliver superb, natural-sounding audio that also protects kids hearing.  Is there a drawback?  From their performance to protecting hearing, the answer is no, there are no drawbacks.  The only caution that I would have with any earphone is that they do block out a good bit of outside noise.  Therefore, just as you would any pair of earphones, kids need to be mindful of their surroundings.  
So if you’re a parent who doesn’t want to deal with locking down volume on devices and is looking for a solution that “just works” to protect your son or daughter’s hearing from permanent damage, then I strongly, if not urgently recommend that you pickup a pair of the ETY Kids.  Having used these within my household I simply cannot say enough good things about them.
Being an audiophile is both a hobby and a passion—we know that.  We also love to spread that passion of music onto others.  But, if we’re really going to pass on the love of music to our children and the next generation, then we need to make protecting our kids’ hearing a priority.  I personally want to thank Etymotic Research for making a great product that addresses this critical issue.  You’ve scored a real winner.
Finally, if you’re interested in further reading, Etymotic has published a free PDF entitled, Guide to Safe-Listening Earphones.  The document is a good overview of the issues and will give parents good information.  You owe it to yourself to download and read it.