Protect Your Hearing While Using Headphones

Protect Your Hearing While Using Headphones

Peter Lucier, HIS

Do you like to listen to headphones? Well, you are not alone. According to a 2017 Statista survey, 87 percent of U.S. respondents use their headphones to listen to music. Whether it’s listening to music or podcasts on the go, talking on the phone, or watching TV at home, since the invention of the Sony Walkman in 1979, headphones have been all the rage. Headphones are a convenient way to listen to media without disturbing those around you. However, these amazing devices come with some responsibility. 

It’s estimated that currently, 1 in 5 teens will experience some form of hearing loss—a rate about 30% higher than it was 20 years ago. While hearing loss is commonly a condition attributed to older adults noise-induced hearing loss can affect anyone at any age. Despite the danger, headphones pose there are safe ways to listen. Here are just a few.

Understanding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

One of the main ways to avoid damage to your hearing from noise is to understand how sound affects your ears. The volume or loudness of sound is measured in decibels (dBA). Any decibel level surpassing 85 dBA can begin to cause lasting damage to your inner ear, where fragile hair-like cells transport audio information to the brain. Consistent exposure of 85 dBA or for 8 hours or more is when damage begins, however, as the decibels rise the time it takes for damage to begin quickly shrinks. At 95 dBA it only takes 50 minutes to sustain damage and at 105 it takes around 15 minutes! Headphones can deliver decibels of this level for hours on end making them a dangerous hazard contributing to lasting hearing damage across generations

Turn down the volume

It’s an alluring feeling to listen to your favorite music at high volumes. When you can feel the bass in your chest and the vocal soar and ring out into the air it’s an amazing feeling. But honestly, you can enjoy your favorite music without damaging your hearing for the rest of your life. Turn down the volume. A rule of thumb is to limit the volume to no higher than 60% of the available volume. You can still enjoy the music you love and you’ll be able to hear it in more nuanced ways for years to come.

Use noise-canceling headphones

One problem with headphones is that people use them to block out distracting noises. Whether you are trying to block out sounds at home, at work, on public transport, or in a busy café, it often aids in concentration. However, to do this often requires turning up the volume to dangerous levels. Fortunately, noise-canceling technology now allows us to listen to headphones without blowing out our inner ear cells. Noise-canceling headphones and earbuds actively detect the ambient sounds around you in a space and send an inverted sound wave out to counter the sound. This cancels out both waves effectively giving the user a soundwave which is a flat line. You can listen to your favorite media without having to turn up to volume and damage your hearing.

Wear headphones, not earbuds

While headphones fit over the ears, earbuds fit in the eardrum. Earbuds are small, light, and portable but they much closer to your inner ear than headphones. The distance from sound to the eardrum may be minimal between headphones and earbuds, but it’s crucial in the long run for the health of your hearing.

Take listening breaks

When listening to sound, breaks really can help protect your hearing. 8 hours of constant sound at 85 dBA eventually wear out your inner ear cells causing damage that can not be reversed. Try taking listening breaks. Take a 5-minute break every 30 minutes or a 10-minute break every 60 minutes.

Set a volume limit.

Today more smart devices and phones are offering the ability to set listening limits on the device. For instance, on an iPhone, go to Settings > Music > Volume limit to set a maximum. 

Think you have hearing loss? It’s better to act sooner than later. Contact us today to schedule a hearing exam.