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Earphones to save kids' hearing shown at IFA (Podcast)

CNET's Larry Magid speaks with Mark Karnes of Etymotic Research about the company's Safe Listening Earphones, designed to help parents prevent their kids from suffering hearing loss from loud media players.

Mark Karnes, managing director of the Consumer Products Division at Etymotic Research, talks about noise-isolating earphones for kids. Larry Magid

Etymotic Research was at the giant IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin to debut its new earphones designed to protect children's hearing.

ETY•Kids Safe-Listening Earphones Etymotic Research

The product, ETY*Kids Safe-Listening Earphones, consists of noise canceling in-ear earphones (or "earbuds") that allow parents to insure that the volume of sound that reaches their child's ears doesn't exceed safe levels. The earphones will be available in October, starting at $49.

In a podcast interview (scroll down to listen) recorded at the Showstoppers press event at IFA, Karnes said that, by proportion of population, there are now more hearing impaired children than seniors. The risk, he said, depends on "how long children are listening to any device and how loud they're listening." He said that it's safe to listen to sound at the 85 decibel (db) limit for about eight hours but that every 3 decibel increase "cuts exposure time down dramatically." For context, 85db, according to Karnes, is about the level you would hear in a crowded room such as on a trade show floor. This chart, from Industrial Noise Control, gives other examples, such as a jet take-off at 305 meters equaling about 100db, which the chart says is eight times as loud as 70db and capable of "serious damage in eight hours of exposure."

Click below to listen to the four-minute interview.

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