The casual Gen Z or millennial these days have been plugging their ears with headphones relatively much longer than their predecessors. With the technology starting to become more convenient to purchase and use (such as the true wireless Bluetooth technology that has been so famous today), statistics show that hearing loss is 30% higher than it was two decades ago.
It means that one in every five teenagers has their ears impaired due to excessive volume and headphone usage. Listening with headphones has gone quite extensive, going beyond the music as headphones can now also be utilized for calls, meetings, streaming, and the like. It gives light to a fundamental question: do headphones cause hearing loss? If so, how does the use of earphones damage the ears?
The kind of loud sound that can’t be proud of
The maximum amount of decibels a phone or mp3 player can produce is at around 120, a number not too far from the number of decibels one can get from listening to live music. Hearing loss can occur at about one and a quarter of an hour of listening straight at this sound level. To give a comparison, 100 decibels worth of loudness is equal to a chainsaw or a motorcycle engine.
Circling back to the music player and phone, a harmful occurrence when it comes to earphone use is when the volume needs to be cranked up just to shut off background noise such as strangers in a public vehicle, noisy cars in traffic, or aeroplane turbines. Usually, to shun off background noise, a device needs to be at 70% volume, which easily produces 85 decibels. This number is unhealthy for the ears to endure. Even if the sounds coming from the earphones, sound as if it was in an empty room, the ears still take it by the decibels. It means that the ears take the damage analogous to the number of decibels and not by how comfortable a person hears things. Factually speaking, high volume can cause hearing loss.
With the buds directly putting out the sound waves to one’s ear canal, an earphone or headphone user is more prone to rapid degradation of hearing. The sound would definitely come out more clear and crisp, the instruments and vocals can be heard to the most intricate detail, but the ears can only handle it to some extent.
How long can the ears take the noise before it fails?
Statistically speaking, the ear can only endure 60% of a device’s total maximum volume for only an hour a day. If it goes louder than that, then one should also need to lessen the time exposed to that level of sound. For analogy’s sake, a person should only be exposed to 100% volume for five minutes maximum. Anything longer than that would induce hearing loss.
What are the telltale signs of hearing loss?
The hard part about headphones hearing loss is that it’s pretty hard to figure out that it’s manifesting since it happens gradually with no actual warning signs. But also, it’s pretty cumulative. To determine if something’s wrong, only a hearing test or diagnosis from a medical practitioner would verify how damaged one’s hearing is.
Despite being quite vague on its effects, there are actually some symptoms to check on regarding hearing loss. If the things mentioned below are starting to manifest, it’s recommended to contact a medical practitioner immediately.
- Listening to sound at a much higher volume than before, maybe through external speakers or earphones.
- The ears sound as if they’re plugged, and speech usually turns out muffled.
- There’s constant buzzing, hissing, roaring, or ringing heard even if the surroundings are quiet.
- There’s too much ear wax being produced by the ear.
- Infections may develop due to bacterial build-up.
- Speech is hard to understand when background noise is present.
How is hearing loss treated?
The sad reality regarding hearing loss is that it cannot be treated to return to its perfect state but only prevented. Once the damage has been done, the only thing left to do is to make use of devices and contraptions to help regain or mimic closely how the ears perceive sound in its healthy state. For this, a common device used is hearing aids. For more extensive fixes and procedures, implants can also be performed to directly replace the parts of the ear that have been damaged or rendered inactive.
How is hearing loss prevented?
To prevent further the degradation of one’s hearing certain rules and regulations regarding sound have to be kept in mind. This quick guide quickly shows how to avoid hearing loss from headphones.
1. Follow the 60 per cent for minutes rule.
-Always keep in mind that the healthiest amount to be exposed to sound would be at 60% volume for a maximum of one hour. Anything louder or longer than that is instantly degradative to the hearing.
- Use over-ear earphones instead of in-ears.
-Using earphones that shoot the sound directly to the ear canals contributes to slow hearing loss. There are a lot of cases regarding hearing loss due to earbuds use. Using over-ear headphones in place of in-ears gives the ear proper sound and airflow along with the less direct impact of sound waves that may contribute to hearing loss. This easily makes it the best headphones for ear health and also the best headphones to prevent hearing loss.
- Always use the device in moderation.
– In life, anything in excess is always not good —the same works with sounds and ears. Always remember to time the usage of earphones and to keep the volume at a level that’s just enough to hear properly. That’s how to use earphones safely.
- Avoid excessive use as much as possible.
-If there is no need to use earphones, it’s better to skip on it and take the sound from the speakers instead. This prevention can quickly reduce the risk in terms of hearing loss.
Columbia Asia. (2019, October 23). Harmful Effects of Listening Music with Earphones. Retrieved from https://www.columbiaindiahospitals.com/health-articles/harmful-effects-listening-music-earphones-headphones
Mazlan, R., Saim, L., Thomas, A., Said, R., & Liyab, B. (2002). Ear infection and hearing loss amongst headphone users. The Malaysian journal of medical sciences : MJMS, 9(2), 17–22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3406203/
Signia Hearing. (2018, September 5). Do Headphones Cause Hearing Loss?. Retrieved from https://www.signia-hearing.com/blog/can-headphones-cause-hearing-loss/