I am delighted to see that parents are aware of the risks when listening to MP3's and welcome the opportunity to give you some advice. The golden rule will be softer than you think and for shorter periods. It is often the prolonged exposure to noise that can cause hearing impairment. The average level of dangerous noise is 85dB for 8 Hours a day. The research about safe exposure differs a bit but most professionals feel that one should not be exposed to 100dB input for longer than 15 minutes per day. On your average MP3, the intensity at half volume is between 94 and 100dB, which would mean a safe exposure of between 15 minutes to one hour. The ranges for your most well known MP3 brands are between 85dB and 108dB at half volume.
Normal speech is at about 60dB, Night clubs average about 90-110dB, which allows for about 2 hours to as little as 2 minutes of safe exposure. The best advice is that if you have to raise your voice to be heard, you are probably in an environment that could be harmful to your hearing. A few good tips when going out is to sit as far away as possible to the speakers and to spend some time outside if possible. Also allow for some recovery time before the next exposure.
It is also advisable to have your children's hearing evaluated regularly by an audiologist. Nowadays, children and teenagers are exposed to very high levels of noise that could definitely be harmful to their hearing. Remember, it is always better to prevent damage than to try and control it later.
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