Headphones are a technological accessory most of us cannot live without. We use them whilst we are at the gym, driving or just to block ourselves out from the outside world but the fact of the matter is, we have no idea how much damage they are actually doing to our ear canals and to our hearing.
There are so many different types and styles of headphones on the market today however, there are two main types:earbuds and headphones.
How does noise cause hearing loss?
Your ear is made up of three main parts that work as a team to process sounds around you namely:
- Outer ear
- Middle ear
- Inner ear
There is a part of your inner ear called the Cochlea and this area houses tiny little hair cells which helps send sound messages to your brain.
When you play loud sounds, the sound can cause damage to these hairs and the Cochlea cannot send the messages of sound to your brain.
Unfortunately, inner ear damage never heals. Over time, more and more hair cells get damaged and your hearing becomes worse. When you play loud music through headphones, you are exposing these tiny hairs to loud sounds that causes irreversible damage.
How do headphones damage your ears?
We all know that headphones come in handy and they are useful when they are used on low volumes. Earbuds might be small but they do pack a punch! Believe it or not, headphones can damage your hearing the same way that a chainsaw, heavy machinery or even a motorbike can.
Here is the research from the University of Utah states “The type of headphones you choose can also play a part in your risk factor.”
Heavy machinery can create about 100 decibels of sound. That amount of decibels can start to damage those little hairs in less than an hour. Your iPod or cell phone at 70% of its volume creates about 85 decibels.
When you turn the volume up louder and listen for long periods of time, you can induce permanent hearing loss. This condition is called noise-induced hearing loss.
Are headphones safer to use than earbuds?
Headphones have a larger ear muff that you place over the outside of your ears instead of placing the entire speaker into your ear and close to your eardrum. There is a reason they are coming back into fashion.
To an extent, headphones are safer to use when it comes to preserving your hearing than earbuds as the speakers are not against your ear canal per say however, this does not mean that you can blast the volume on 100% because it is further away from your ear.
Earbuds place the source of the sound in your ear canal and this can increase the sound’s volume by 6-9 decibels. This can cause some serious damage to your canal and your hearing later on in life.
Headphones might be a bit more bulky to carry around however, they do not cause as much damage to your hearing as earphones do.
The best headphones to get are the noise cancelling ones. They block out other noises which reduces the need to put the volume up higher. They can also help you focus when you studying.
Check the list of the Best Headphones for Traveling.
Signs of noise-induced hearing loss
Noise-induced hearing loss does not happen overnight. The hearing loss from earbuds usually takes a while and we tend to realise something is wrong when it is too late.
Here are the two main signs that you may be damaging your tiny hairs in your inner ear:
- Ringing or buzzing in your ears after you have been listening to loud noises for a period of time
- Muffling or distortion of sounds
If you suffer with any of these symptoms you need to make an appointment with your doctor and go have it seem to. If your doctor believes there is a problem, he will send you to an Audiologist who will run a series of tests to determine how much damage has been done and how you can prevent further damage from happening.
How to use headphones correctly
First and foremost, everything in moderation. You will not go and eat an entire chocolate cake, so you do not need to have your device volume on 100%. You also need to make sure that you are not exposing your ears to sounds from earphones for long periods of time.
Audiologists have a rule of thumb: 60% volume for 60 minutes at a time. This means that you can watch videos or listen to music through headphones or earbuds for one hour intervals with a 60% volume rate.
One of my favourite tricks to see if the volume of my headphones are safe is to ask the person next to me if they can hear my music. If the answer is yes or you cannot hear their response, then your volume is too loud. Turn the volume down until the person next to you can no longer hear your music.
Hearing loss is not the only problem headphones can cause. Due to the loud noises cause by headphones, you tend to become unaware of the world around you. This can cause you to lose focus and increase your chances of accidents on the roads when you are driving or even walking across the street.
It is hard to hear someone scream, “heads up” when you can barely hear yourself breathe.
Headphones might make your life a bit easier in the moment but in the long run, they cause irreversible damage that can get worse over time. You need to take care of your ears and hearing.
Hearing is one of the 5 senses that you do not want to lose so put the volume down, get yourself a set of headphones and limit the amount of time you spend with headphones in your ears.
Hearing loss due to headphones is preventable! So make an effort now and the future you will be thankful for that.