If you're shopping for headphones for your kids, the safest option is a pair that limits the maximum volume. Out of nearly 20 models we tested, the best ones are the Puro BT2200 volume-limiting wireless on-ears. They're a bit pricier than most, but they're well-built, sound great, and have effective wired and wireless volume limits—when used properly.
Why should you buy volume-limiting headphones? Because even cheap earbuds can dangerously exceed the levels recommended by health experts. Noise-induced hearing loss can start showing up in even young children, and it can have long-term impacts on their academic performance.
Worst of all? Many volume-limiting headphones are capable of exceeding their advertised limits with nothing more powerful than an iPhone. To sort out the good from the bad, we put 19 models through the ringer in our state-of-the-art audio lab. If you want to dig into the nitty gritty of how we tested, why, and what a $25,000 dummy wearing kids' headphones looks like, I highly recommend you read our full report. If you just want to know what to buy, here's what you need to know:
Experts recommend a max volume of 85dB for no more than 60min/day. For adults, noise exposure is considered hazardous after 8 hours at 85dB(a). An iPhone's earbuds can easily average 105dB at full volume, which can be hazardous after just a few minutes.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is permanent. NIHL is cumulative, may not become apparent until years later, and it may affect up to 1.1 billion people. Caution is key—we don't know exactly where the "safe" threshold is.
Volume-limiting headphones are not a guarantee of safety. We used an iPhone 7 Plus for our tests, but anything more powerful—like an amp—could drive even the best wired models we tested above recommended levels. Your best bet is to go wireless if possible, or just turn the volume to about 60% of the max.