According to the Hearing Health Foundation, 20 percnt of American teenagers--and 50 million Americans total--suffer from hearing loss, and noise-induced hearing loss is a major culprit. This type of hearing loss can be caused by a single exposure to an extremely loud noise like an explosion, but it can also be caused by "long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels."
Kids are getting smartphones, tablets, and other media players at increasingly younger ages, potentially spending long periods of time listening to music or watching videos through headphones at sound levels that are too high. It's not hard for a parent to control the volume level for a younger child. But as our kiddos get a bit older and more tech-savvy, it becomes increasingly difficult to be sure that they are always listening at safe volume levels.
Headphone manufacturer Puro Sound Labs formed with a simple mission: to create quality headphones that sound good and protect your hearing at the same time. The company's Healthy Ears approach to safe listening involves three elements: First, limit the headphones' maximum volume to 85 decibels. Second, block out noise so that people don't feel compelled to turn up the volume too loud. Puro says that its passive noise-blocking design can block out 82 percent of ambient noise. And finally, use a special Puro Balanced Response sound curve tailored to provide the best quality at the volume levels allowed.
Puro's first headphone, the wireless, on-ear, Bluetooth-based BT2200 ($79.99), was first introduced in late 2014 and was targeted directly at kids. Since then, the company has introduced the larger BT5200 headphone ($149.99) geared toward adults, which uses many of the same design elements but offers volume monitoring instead of volume limiting (which means the headphone will tell you when you're listening too loud, and you have the freedom to ignore it if you're feeling stubborn). Puro also offers several sub-$40 in-ear and on-ear designs targeted at teens.
As the parent of a seven-year-old daughter who has grown very fond of her tablet, especially to watch movies on long road trips (her parents have grown rather fond of this practice, too!), I worry about her listening to both movies and music at loud levels. Yes, I can start off the show at a reasonable volume, but the child knows how to work a volume control, and soon she will know how to access and adjust the volume limiters that are built into many tablets and smartphones. The Puro approach intrigued me, so I decided to check out the original BT2200.