BuddyPhones PlayEars+: Cute and durable earphones that protect the hearing of young children

The animal ears are sweet, and three safe modes keep the volume within sensible limits while also offering flexibility

headohones for kids with glittery fox ears on the headband
BuddyPhones PlayEars+
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Price: €55
Where To Buy: BuddyPhones

I’ve had a few funny looks this week. It could be my choice of clothing, but it’s more likely to be the headphones I’m wearing: they come with their very own animal ears.

Specifically, a set of glittery fox ears, with matching fox-themed stickers on the ear cups.

It’s not something I’d usually use, but this is all in the name of journalism. These are the BuddyPhones PlayEars+, a set of headphones specifically designed for younger users to protect their hearing.

You aren’t limited to being a sly fox. The BuddyPhones PlayEars+ come in a variety of options, including cat, dog and bear, each with their own colour and customisation options, with animal-themed stickers for the ear cups.


The main selling point – aside from the very cute animal ears – are the three SafeAudio modes. This limits the audio output on the headphones so it won’t damage your child’s ears, but you can choose between 75dB limits for toddlers, 85dB for regular listening and 94dB for travelling, when background noise might make it more difficult to hear audio.

That’s a welcome addition. There are tools you can use on certain devices to limit the audio output, but toddlers learn quickly where the volume button is, and in my experience, they aren’t afraid to use it. Likewise, some of the volume limitations may make it more difficult to hear audio when on a flight, for example. Headphones that protect their hearing are a great idea, but if they can’t use them properly, it’s a wasted investment.

The PlayEars+ also has a study mode that makes vocals crisper – should they be using the headphones for online learning – just by flicking a switch on the left ear cup.

The BuddyPhones also tick the right boxes when it comes to comfort. The band is flexible and textured underneath so it won’t slip off small heads. It’s flexible, too, and doesn’t put too much pressure on your head. The headphones have small, cushioned ear cups with a breathable fabric that won’t sweat your ears, and control buttons for the various functions. Volume and the mutifunction power/play/pause button is on the right ear cup, while the left has a slider to switch Study Mode – more on that later – on and off. The buttons are a decent size, so small fingers can get to grips with them easily.

You use the volume buttons to switch between the previously mentioned three audio limiting modes, holding down volume up and down. It can be a bit fiddly for parents, but it also means that younger children are unlikely to be able to switch modes themselves.

Audio quality is also good. Study Mode makes a noticeable difference to the vocals, crisping them up even in music tracks.

Most importantly, these are durable headphones. To test them out, I handed them over at various times to different age groups to see how they held up. The eight-year-old test subject can usually be relied on to look after things, although she has her moments. The BuddyPhones came back without a scratch. The six-year-old was a lesser-known quantity, although he has managed to destroy a couple of pairs of so-called durable kids’ headphones in the past.

The wireless element of the headphones should also improve durability. Previous children’s headphones in this house have fallen victim to broken wires

The BuddyPhones are made of tougher stuff than he. They are flexible, rather than hard plastic, which makes them a bit harder to destroy. They also last the destruction derby of a three-year-old.

You have options, with the BuddyPhones working in both wireless Bluetooth and wired mode, depending on your preference – or whether you have remembered to charge them.

Battery life is quite good at 24 hours of use, and the charger is USB C, so you should be able to lay your hands on some spares easily enough if it goes missing.

The wireless element of the headphones should also improve durability. Previous children’s headphones in this house have fallen victim to broken wires; in the case of the BuddyPhones, if the wire breaks you can just replace it with a new one relatively quickly.


These have instant appeal for children and parents. You get the cute customisation options with the ears and stickers for kids, and the audio limiting and durable construction for parents. At €55, they aren’t cheap, so they need to last more than a couple of listening sessions.

Three different audio limiting modes are available, so you can choose the most appropriate for your child and listening environment.

Battery life is good, too, lasting more than a day of use before needing a charge.


Cycling between audio modes is a bit fiddly, but on the plus side this prevents toddlers from changing the upper volume limit.

The rest

The headphones work in both wireless and wired mode, which is great if you forget to charge, assuming your device has an audio jack.

The BuddyPhones come with a colour-matched travel bag and a number of stickers that you can use to customise the ear cups.


As far as child-friendly headphones go, the BuddyPhone hit all the right marks.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist