What headphones should I buy for my rough kids?
March 27, 2009 2:41 AM   Subscribe

Best headphones for kids?

My kids are 4 and 6 and thus far have destroyed every pair of headphones they've had, mostly inexpensive ear buds and headphones.

I'd love some recommendations for not-too-expensive but sturdy headphones. I think most ear buds are too big for their ears. Certainly they frustrate my younger son.

Sound quality is not that important--they'll use these with Leapsters, maybe an iPod, on the airplane, etc.

Or am I better off buying multiple cheapy headphones I know they'll destroy?

posted by bluedaisy to Technology (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
As a possible workaround for too-big earbuds, I have a pair of these in-ear headphones that come with 3 different sizes of squishy cushions---the small ones might fit your kid's ears. On the other side, changeable sizes means removable parts, which probably bodes poorly for their rough-kid-proofness.
posted by JiBB at 3:20 AM on March 27, 2009

I'm not sure that these'll fit a 4 and 6 year old, but I have those headphones which are inexpensive and super sturdy and pretty cute besides. I have them in black and I like them a lot, and they're very snug on my adult female head.

And look, they also have Marvin!
posted by birdie birdington at 4:22 AM on March 27, 2009

I have those headphones JiBB links to and the little cushions come off constantly. I actually superglued them on and they still come off after a couple months. The smallest ones *just* fit my ears, and I am a fairly small adult woman; definitely too big for a 4 year old. I searched far and wide for tiny earbuds and those were what I found. I am not very happy about this, and wonder if my ears are all that abnormally small.

You are going to want over the ear headphones, definitely. If your kids are not the swallowing things sort of rough, I would personally go for the buy a few pairs of the cheapest ones you can find strategy.

A brief amazon perusal led me to these, which are adorable, and I have no idea if they are any good, but they seem to fit the few detachable parts, fairly sturdy construction, small size criteria.
posted by Mizu at 4:26 AM on March 27, 2009

You might want to consider the importance of protecting their hearing first. Because of that I suspect that earbuds aren't especially a good idea for small kids.

The article I linked to mentions these Maxell headphones and ear clips.
posted by SteveInMaine at 5:13 AM on March 27, 2009

As a former Hearing Instrument Specialist (HIS) I highly recommend AGAINST letting your kids use any type of headphones.

I don't have my research handy but even 90 decibels can be damaging with constant exposure.

Heck, turn the sound OFF on the toys. You'll both enjoy the quiet when you realize it's a choice, and not a health concern when your or your kids hearing has degraded as you age.

If you must give them something I would recommend that you NOT use earbuds as there is less "bleed" of sound when it's already focused in the ear canal in that way.

I cannot endorse any brand or model, but please, please, please reconsider how much noise exposure your kids are getting at such an early age.

I have fitted hundreds of hearing aids on 18-103 year-olds and I have worn hearing aids for 30 years. Being deaf in any degree is not something I'd wish on anyone - especially when it can be prevented.
posted by emjay at 6:47 AM on March 27, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you decide not to take emjay's advice - and it appears to be very reliable and well thought-out - you should at the least use volume limiters on the devices the headphones will be connected to. I know iPods have software limiters, and you can do the same with PCs, etc.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:53 AM on March 27, 2009

Response by poster: I appreciate folks' concerns for my kids hearing, but they don't use headphones much at all. Primarily I'm thinking of our transcontinental flights this summer (we're expats), when they'll want to watch movies or play with their Leapsters, and I'll want them not to bother all the passengers around us.

Their total headphone time might well be limited to 20 hours/year. Seriously. But I want headphones that won't get destroyed as quickly.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:09 AM on March 27, 2009

I agree with Inspector.Gadget, and would go one farther; get a inline volume control for whatever headphones you buy. You can pick up a basic one at radioshack or higher quality ones online if your kids listen to alot of music and can hear the difference.

Most of these don't let kids increase the volume more than the device is outputting (aka no amplification) but do let them reduce the volume drastically. If they are kids they likely can hear perfectly even below the lowest volume on most devices. I listen to music on my ipod at the lowest volume setting + a volume limiter at half or less and can hear fine (shure se110).

I've seen research that shows people who get used to listening at very low volumes tend to get better sensitivity to sound; nice bonus too.

I'd go with cheap headphones and replacing them; better yet see if you can buy a bunch in bulk. If you do want to spend some money though, I'd recommend considering a sony ex71/81 or similar budget earphone. These go in the ears, and work well for ears that can't fit normal earbuds (I can't wear the normal ipod earbuds for long because they are too big). Keep in mind that earphones focus the sound into the ears much more than earbuds, but in return reduce external noise so a listener can lower the volume farther and still hear (if the background noise is X, normally headphones need to be played at X+something, leading to more noise aimed at the ear, earphones isolate the ear cannal and reduce background noise, so stuff can be played way below X).

Either way, talk to your kids about keeping the volume down. Over the years my hearing went up from listening at low volumes; now I can hear people coming and doors opening well before most people around me. At their age protecting their hearing is important.
posted by rmathew1 at 7:26 AM on March 27, 2009

Just saw your reply to the thread. The best surviving headphones I've seen are the over the ear clip ones from Sony etc and the ones that go around the back of your head. My sister has a old over the ear/behind head koss headphone that has survived over 10,000 miles of road trips for over 5 years; this was while being tossed in backpacks and all sorts of stuff.

On the other hand, most of the earphones have warranties included; for the cost of a replacement or two you could get a better device and have it repaired under warranty. That's what I'm doing now; got tired of replacing headphones.
posted by rmathew1 at 7:31 AM on March 27, 2009

Response by poster: rmathew1, that's an interesting point about the warranties... problem is that since we live in Egypt, it's near impossible to actually follow up with the warranty. Thanks though.

I do appreciate people's recommendations for my kids, and thanks also for the reminders about volume.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:48 AM on March 27, 2009

IHearSafe sells volume-limited earbuds for children.

However, I agree with emjay and others. Ear buds are a terrible idea for people of *any* age other than professional musicians who use them for monitoring, or athletes who can't wear real over-the-ear headphones.

I would get your kid a pair of cheap over-the-ear headphones at BEST. The really crappy ones don't get very loud anyway. Sticking something in your ear that can produce 80 or 90dB signals is just plain stupid.

Some day, Apple is going to be destroyed by a huge class action lawsuit for those stupid white earbuds. Apple's get louder (and sound worse) than most in the same price range (heck, than most much cheaper crap earbuds). A generation will lose its hearing 10-20 years early. It's gonna be f'ed up.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:20 AM on March 27, 2009

PS -- I am currently wearing a pair of Sony over-the-ear studio headphones (MDRV6) that have lasted me for several years of nearly constant use, on the road, outdoors, and everywhere else I go. Once you become accustomed to listening to music on real headphones, earbuds become an abomination, even when they cost $200 and are custom fitted to your ear.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:24 AM on March 27, 2009

These look good. Sturdy and comfortable they say. I did a lot of traveling as a kid, my parents used earphones, and my hearing is fine.
posted by sweetkid at 10:41 AM on March 27, 2009

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