Earbuds – Helpful or Harmful?
Many people use headphones and earbuds to connect to their mobile devices. Listening to an endless stream of music, podcasts, and Netflix. As the world has become more dependent on their devices for anything from phone calls, to checking the weather, email, and nonstop entertainment, the amount of time people are wearing earbuds is increasing. With that comes the risk of hearing loss.
According to the CDC, any noise over 70dB for a prolonged period can start to damage hearing. Anything over 120dB can cause immediate damage. Doctors recommend that you listen at a volume of no more than 60% of the maximum volume and do so for no longer than 60 minutes. The higher the volume, the shorter the period of time that is safe for you to listen.
Given the number of people that are now wearing earbuds for extended periods of time, loud noise associated hearing loss could well become more prevalent in the not-too-distant future. In 2015 the World Health Organization estimated that 1.1 billion young people were at risk of hearing damage from the use of earbuds and headphones.
Using earbuds has been shown in multiple studies to cause people to turn up their volume an average of 13 decibels over any background sounds. That means in noisy environments you could be turning up your volume to dangerous levels.
What can you do about it?
Use noise-canceling headphones where possible.
Noise-canceling headphones help block surrounding sound. Ambient sounds are often a reason people turn their volume up on their devices to dangerous levels. This can be when out walking, at the gym, or in noisy cafes. Noise-canceling devices can be more expensive but saving your hearing will save you quality of life in years to come.
Check with people around you.
When wearing earbuds, ask if people around you can hear the sound from your headphones. If they can, your volume is too high. Turn the volume down and train yourself to listen at a quieter volume.
Avoid wearing earbuds in noisy environments.
If you are listening to a device and find yourself wanting to turn the volume up, turn it off instead. Give your ears a rest. Remember doctors say 60 dB for 60 minutes. When out walking or running, safety is also a factor. If your music is up high, you put yourself at risk due to being less aware of oncoming traffic or other dangers.
Take a break
If you are wearing your earbuds for extended periods of time, then give your ears a break. Take in your surroundings instead. Devices can make us so disconnected from what is right in front of us. We are less likely to talk to others if we are wearing earbuds, or, if they are. Reconnect to the places and people around you by looking up and around instead of down and out.
Hearing is a precious sense that once it is lost it cannot be regained. Take care of it now so you can still hear the music later.