Earbuds are great if you want to deafen your kids

4 minute read

The youth of today will hit their hard-of-hearing stage much earlier if parents keep leaving them to their own devices.

There are days, gentle reader, when I do feel very old. I should point out that I AM very old, but that does not mean I feel very old every day.

The days when I feel the oldest are those on which I catch myself thinking like a Clint Eastwood character, despite my left-wing voting proclivities.

On gentler Clint Days, as I like to call them, I find myself smiling quietly at my younger colleagues who discover things like, there is still a gender pay gap, or, the Israel-Gaza thing is actually quite complicated, or, sometimes the book is better than the movie, or, The Golden Girls was pretty good television.

“Oh, my sweet summer child,” I find myself thinking.

On the not-so-gentle Clint Days I’m yelling at the television. “Where are the bloody parents??” (Youth crime stories.) Or, “What the AF is he wearing??” (Cricket days.) Or “No cops at Mardi Gras!!”

Actually, that last one is just on the Stop Killing Gay People You Homophobic Arsehole Days. But I digress.

The thing that most gets my Clint eyeballs rolling is the sight of a small child, sitting in splendid isolation, with its earbuds in, its tablet or smartphone in hands, gazing fixedly at the latest Bluey episode.

I’m all in favour of kids watching Bluey, by the way. Best theme tune in television history, just quietly.

What I’m not in favour of is the phenomenon of smartphone as babysitter.

This most often happens in airports. Young parents are sitting next to said kidlet, and they’re also gazing at their smartphones, or eating something they’d never buy by choice outside of an airport terminal, or reading a book they’d never buy if their anxiety attack wasn’t pending.

What happened to parents having an obligation to keep their kids amused and well behaved in public spaces? Get off my lawn!


Anyway, turns out sticking a set of earbuds in a small child’s lugholes is probably not the best idea in the world.

Apart from the fact I may immediately smack you on the back of the head with a copy of Scientific American (something I only buy in airports), there are sound medical reasons to abandon the tech for a bit of honest parenting.

According to new poll results out of the University of Michigan (go Wolverines!) two in three parents say their 5- to 12-year-old child uses personal audio devices, with half of parents of children ages 5-8 reporting elementary-aged kids use a device.

Among parents whose children use headphones and earbuds, half say kids spend at least an hour a day using them while one in six says a typical day for their child includes at least two hours of use.

And what is this doing to a kiddy’s developing hearing?

“Parents may underestimate the potential harm from excessive use of listening devices,” says Susan Woolford, a paediatrician and co-director of the poll.

“It may be difficult to know whether their child’s exposure to noise is healthy.

“Young children are more vulnerable to potential harm from noise exposure because their auditory systems are still developing. Their ear canals are also smaller than adults, intensifying perceived sound levels,” said Woolford.

“Tiny hair cells inside the inner ear pick up sound waves to help you hear. When these get damaged or die, hearing loss is irreversible.”

Noise exposure can also affect their sleep, academic learning, language, stress levels and even blood pressure, she adds.

Like any of that is going to stop parents from using the electronic babysitter. Ah well.

All of that was just an excuse to tell you this most excellent Clint Eastwood story from my youth. Which doubles as a warning over fonts that put letters too close together.

A colleague was in China for a conference, wandering the streets of Beijing one evening after the day was done. Walked past a cinema, where a Clint flick was playing. The translated movie poster said: “Starring Cunt Eastman.”

My colleague, once recovered from the laughing fit, pointed this out to a cinema employee who immediately took a marker pen and changed the poster to: “Starring Cunt Eastwood.”

True story. You’re welcome.

Shout your story tips a little louder this time at penny@medicalrepublic.com.au.

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