We put earbuds to the test to see how much your kids can't hear
Steve Chamraz, Stephanie Graham
Steve Chamraz reportsPhoto: Video by tmj4.com
WAUWATOSA - Parents in Wauwatosa couldn't believe it.
Netia Burford said, "This is an extreme tragedy... I'm speechless."
11-year-old Joey Kramer was killed by a train in February--A train he apparently couldn't see or hear. Railroad commissioner Jeff Plale explained, "By all accounts this was a young boy going to school not paying attention."
A police report shows Kramer was wearing a hoodie and red Monster Brand Beats earbuds. He had his whole life ahead of him, and then, it was over.
Another mother adds, "As a mom you wish you could have been there to prevented that, to stop that to grab him."
So... How much do earbuds really impair hearing? Take 18-year-old Becca Hoffland. She'll sit and chat with her dad Scott occasionally, but more often than not, Becca's wearing her earbuds. She admits she's not always paying attention. "I have people that run into me that are wearing headphones too."
At ADVENT Advanced Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists in Milwaukee we put headphones to the test.
Gwen Kandula is an audiologist at ADVENT. She puts Becca in a sound-room, where she wears various earphones, and tries to hear exterior sounds. With the in-ear buds, Dr. Kandula has to reach high decibel levels just for Becca to somewhat hear the sounds. However, when Becca wears over-ear headphones, she can hear the sounds at lower decibel levels.
We do the same tests with Becca's dad. He also has a hard time hearing sounds with the earbuds on.
Next test--the environmental sounds room. Scott is able to hear a siren as it got louder, and overall he can hear most of the sounds eventually.
But when Becca puts on earbuds, we are shocked by the results.
A car horn blows for several seconds, and Becca just sits there. She doesn't hear it until the point where in real life it would have been too late.
"I couldn't hear it at all. That was incredible," Becca gasps.
Her dad agrees. "I was having to concentrate on hearing the other sounds, and a normal person who's wearing their earbuds or headphones isn't doing that."
After this test, Becca and Scott, who are also from Wauwatosa, say they understand how Joey Kramer could have not heard that train.
"Be aware of your surroundings because tragedy can come if you're not paying attention," Becca warns.
"Just turn it down a little bit. A little bit makes a big difference," Scott says.
A big difference in an environment that can be very scary if we aren't listening.
points out kids have smaller ears, so the buds have a tighter fit--letting in less outside noise. She suggests parents buy over-the-ear headphones instead of buds, even if they aren't as 'cool' looking. Also, look for volume-limiting headphones. These limit the decibels, making sure your kids are not listening to their music too loudly.