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Earbud Use Could Harm Your Hearing

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Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD
Latest posts by Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD (see all)

Personal listening devices offer a way for people to listen to music privately in a public setting. Earbuds are small headphones, which fit in the base of the ear canal, delivering sound like headphones. Earbuds are convenient and popular because they offer portability with decent sound quality. However, this convenient technology can damage your ears if you are not extremely careful. 

How Earbuds Damage the Ears

Many people understand the dangers of noise induced hearing damage. They know it is a safe practice to wear ear protection in a noisy work setting, when attending a loud concert, sporting event or while using power tools like a lawnmower, leaf blower or chainsaw. However many people don’t even suspect that earbuds are one of the greatest dangers to our hearing. This is especially true for a younger generation of listeners who may not be considering the dangers earbuds could cause their ears. Sound is measured in decibels and any decibel level over 85 dBA can damage the tiny hair cells, which send sound to the brain to be processed. The higher the decibel level and the longer the exposure, the more damage is incurred. This is why a low level of noise in a workplace setting can damage hearing over years. Power tools like a lawnmower or chainsaw can reach decibel levels of 100 dBA damaging hearing quickly. However, many people do not understand that earbuds can easily reach levels as high as 106 dBA, sending damaging sound into the ear canal. As the Internet provides endless streaming sound information, people listen for longer, permanently damaging hearing at a younger age.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise induced hearing loss affects more than just your ears. Hearing loss is a communication issue. For teens and younger adults hearing loss makes it difficult to participate in conversation. People with unaddressed hearing loss are more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety and sleeplessness as they struggle to keep up with conversation. Many with hearing loss choice to self isolate, rather than struggle through conversation with hearing loss. Once earbuds or other noises damage hearing it cannot be repaired. Even so, this does not mean it cannot be treated.

Treating Hearing Loss

If you are struggling with noise induced hearing loss then you can benefit from hearing aids. Hearing aids amplify the specific sounds, which are lost due to noise exposure. Noise induced hearing loss affects everyone differently so it is important to make an appointment to have your hearing tested. You’re your audiologist understands what sounds you struggle with they can prioritize these pitches making it easier to hear and participate in conversation again

Using Earbuds the Correctly

While noise induced hearing loss is a far reaching problem, it is important to remember that it can be avoided in many cases. Feel free to enjoy listening to headphones and earbuds but be aware of the risks. Understanding and following safe listening practices can allow you to listen safely for years to come. 

First of all, though it may be tempting, avoid turning up the volume on your earbuds and headphones to levels past 60% of the available volume. Of course, due to varying compression levels on different media platforms, volume can vary, from song to song. Be sure to turn your headphones all the way down, whenever switching media platforms and raising the sound up slowly.  

Another thing to take into consideration is that the length of listening can also affect your hearing. Make sure to take a break every hour from your earbuds or headphones. This allows your ears to recover, avoiding damaging the tiny hairs or even destroying them. 

Another trick that can let you know if your earbuds are too loud requires you to ask a nearby person for feedback. If the person sitting next to you can hear your earbuds then they are at a dangerous listening level.

Listening Alternatives

With more education and awareness around the damage earbuds can cause, many people are turning to active noise canceling headphones to protect their hearing. This technology actively detects the noise around you and sends out an inverted sound wave, which actively cancels out the damaging noise. 

This amazing technology allows you to listen to your favorite media through headphones and earbuds without feeling tempted to turn up the sound to block out background noise. Consider exploring this technology and preventing damaging hearing loss for the future.

If you are concerned about your hearing abilities, contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test!