When we consider hearing loss causes, we automatically think of spectacular bursts of loud noise, whether it is from industrial equipment, loud concerts, or an explosion. While these are all potentially dangerous situations for hearing loss, there is a more everyday cause of hearing loss that is on the rise: the incorrect use of earbuds.
Study shows the damage earbuds could cause
Professors at Northern Illinois University recently published concerns in the Northern Star, a student-run newspaper at the university. Professors are worried about earbuds not because they distract students from their studies but because they can cause severe and permanent hearing loss – even in children.
Professors at NIU aren’t the only ones educating young people about the dangers of using earbuds excessively. According to a 2015 World Health Organization study, over 12 percent of young people listen to music at unhealthy levels daily. An estimated 1.1 billion young people are at risk of hearing loss due to personal listening devices and earbud use.
How could earbuds cause hearing loss?
To comprehend how using earbuds to stream content can affect one’s hearing, one must first learn how we hear in the first place. Sounds reach the ear canal and are met by microscopic hair cells that translate sound into electrical signals. These are then sent to our brain, which processes them and transforms them into audible sounds.
Noises of 85 decibels or higher can permanently damage the fragile hair cells that play such an essential role in our hearing. These hair cells won’t recover after they have been damaged; once they are gone, they are gone forever. Many earbuds are inserted so deep into the ear canal that they blast sounds directly into the eardrum, so it’s easy to see why they’re considered so potentially harmful.
How loud can earbuds get?
“There’s no way earbuds will get loud enough to impair my hearing,” you might say. Though this is a common misconception, most earbuds and headphones can produce sounds at about 110 dBA when turned up to their maximum volume. This is the equivalent of placing a power saw right up to your ears.
It’s also important to note that hearing loss can occur from a variety of sources. You expose your ears to constant noise levels for several hours of the day if you listen to your earbuds at high volume and work in a loud setting like a bar or regularly attend concerts. Earbuds aren’t the only thing that could be causing you to lose your hearing, but they can play a significant part.
How to protect your ears
Don’t worry; we’re not going to tell you to ditch your earbuds. But it would help if you took several precautions to ensure that you’re using your earbuds at a comfortable level.
- Test your earbud sound levels: setting your earbuds to the volume you usually listen to and hold them at arm’s length. If you can hear the music, the sound is too loud.
- Use the 60/60 rule: The 60/60 rule notes that earbud users should listen for no more than 60 minutes at a time at 60% of their device’s maximum volume. Noise-canceling headphones can be a good investment for you if you use your earbuds to block out the sounds around you. They are expensive, but they use technology to block out outside noise while allowing you to listen to music at comfortable volume levels.
- Get tested regularly: Another way to keep on top of your hearing health is to get yourself tested according to your risk level. If you are an older adult, you should see a hearing professional every year for a checkup and test.
If you’ve encountered any of the early symptoms of hearing loss, regardless of your age or whether you use earbuds, contact our helpful team today to schedule your hearing test. If you’re unsure if you have hearing loss, check for symptoms like hearing but not understanding conversations, feeling overwhelmed in group conversations, tinnitus (ringing or humming in the ear), or concern from friends and family.