The Best Kids' Headphones That Provide Maximum Listening Fun While Protecting Little Ears
I still remember my very first pair of headphones that came with my Sony Walkman, with their cheap foam earpads and sound that definitely leaked to everyone else near me, and that eventually only played in one ear after being dragged around the house while I listened to my favorite cassette tapes. We have come a long way in personal sound technology, and in particular in the realm of kids' headphones. Audiology experts have advised parents and manufacturers to take measures that prevent children from blasting out their eardrums, for one. And for another, brands have developed ways for us to go wireless and connect to the many devices our kids use for fun and for school.
Safest Headphones for Kids
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, regular exposure to noise above 85 decibels (something like the sound of kitchen appliances or a motorcycle) can cause gradual hearing loss over time. For this reason, many headphones designed for children limit the volume to 85 decibels, or allow parents to turn this limit on and off. In the past, some headphone manufacturers that have claimed to limit the volume failed to do so during testing by the New York Times. For that reason, we suggest reading reviews as well as testing the headphones out yourself when you purchase them.
Another way to prevent possible hearing loss in children is to buy only headphones that go over the ear, not earbuds. Earbuds place the sound closer to the eardrum, and they also allow more outside sounds to interfere, which can make the listener want to turn up the volume higher.
Some parents have wondered whether wireless Bluetooth headphones are safe for children. Though the technology does use radio waves to transmit sound, the amount of radiation is at most one-tenth of the amount of radiation emitted from a cell phone.
What to Consider When Buying Kids' Headphones
Budget: It's possible to find kids' headphones in the $15 range, going up to hundreds of dollars for gaming headphones teens love. The headphones we list here are all under $100. Even the most durable headphones break, especially when young children are handling them, so we don't recommend investing a lot of money into this device.
Connection Needs: Headphones with cords are less expensive than wireless headphones, and they don't require batteries. But those cords do break easily, and some devices such as iPads and iPhones require a special adaptor. Bluetooth headphones provide an easy way around those headaches. Some wireless headphones come with a cord you can attach for wired use, and others allow for connection between two or more sets.
Comfort and Fit: Some kids' headphones have adjustable headbands, like adult headphones do, and others skip that feature in order to make them sturdier. Check to see whether the pair you want is appropriate for the age of your child. For kids who aren't quite ready for headphones, there are also pairs that use soft cloth headbands to keep the earpieces in place.
Durability: If your kid is hard on their toys and electronics, again, we don't recommend spending a lot on headphones. For wired headphones, look for cords that detach from the headsets and/or those that have braided nylon cord coverings.
Noise-Cancelling: Most kids' headphones don't offer active noise-cancelling features (and really, that sounds super annoying for parents whose kids already don't listen), but some passive noise cancellation or noise isolation may be a good idea. When headphones block some of the outside noise, kids can listen to devices at lower, safer volumes.
Below are the nine best kids' headphones, as chosen by Parents' editors and customer reviews.