Earbuds, or in ear headphones, can damage your hearing if you use them over an extended period of time or play music way too loudly, especially if you do so frequently. They’re widely used today by people of all ages in just about any setting, but their popularity doesn’t make them 100% safe for your hearing.
Why are Earbuds more Dangerous than Headphones?
Because earbuds sit directly in your ear canal, the source of the sound is already louder than if the source weren’t located inside your ear according to Kids Health, nearly 9 decibels louder to be exact. That’s a huge boost, like going from a dinner bell to the sound of a lawnmower. Long-term use of listening to loud music then causes serious hearing loss.
The problem is that earbuds are everywhere, and the hearing loss caused by using them is irreversible. As more time goes by, the untreated issue becomes worse at a rapid rate. Before you know it, you’re turning up the volume more and more – only causing more hearing loss.
In fact, today, one in five teenagers have experienced a form of hearing loss according to the American Osteopathic Association, and many experts expect this rate to continue to grow and are thought to be caused by millennials using smartphones and devices with earbuds frequently.
How to Avoid Hearing Loss from Earbuds
There are a number of ways you can preserve your hearing without having to sacrifice the music and loud events you enjoy other than wearing earplugs to risk any exposure.
Limit Your Volume
Experts say that sounds over 85 decibels cause permanent damage, and you can achieve this by keeping your music or TV volume lower than 60% of its maximum capacity. Even small MP3 players can pump out over 105 decibels.
A good rule of thumb is that if you must raise your voice over the music when you’re talking to someone, you should probably turn the volume down instead.
Limit the Frequency
The amount of time you spend around loud noise needs to be limited to reduce your expose of hearing damage, particularly if you spend a lot of time around loud music, power tools, or work in a constantly loud setting.
The 60/60 rule, where you keep your device at less than 60% of its max volume for under 60 minutes each day. If you listen to lower volumes, however, you may be able to even listen longer.
Choose the Right Earbuds
Not surprisingly, many people continuously raise the volume on their device to drown out background noise. Cheap earbuds without a clean seal will allow in even more outside noise, and this low-quality will often sit closer to your earbud and distracts the sounds quality. People wind up turning up the volume to compensate.
Buying the right earbuds can save your long-term hearing, but you may need to pay a higher price for the added technology boost.
Noise Cancelling Earbuds
Noise cancelling earbuds limit background noise by creating a tighter seal as they sit in the ear canal and detecting sound waves in the environment around you to cancel out, so you can hear your music clearer. Benefits vary, but since the earbuds block outside sounds, you shouldn’t need to raise your volume to combat a noisy gym or supermarket. Thus, you can listen at a safe volume.
The price might be a little higher, but the advantages well outweigh the risk of not using noise cancelling earbuds. Prevention is a lot cheaper than buying a hearing aid later down the road.
There are also new wireless earbuds on the market today that double as assistive hearing aids, meaning people with hearing loss and use wireless earbuds and a smartphone app to replace a hearing aid. The best part is that you don’t even need a prescription!
Soon, people with hearing loss, especially those with tinnitus, can use their wireless earbuds to watch TV and so much more. Not only will this hearing assist option be open to people without healthcare, it’s a more socially acceptable look than the traditional hearing aid.
Know the Warning Signs
If you hear a ringing sound in your ears after you have listened to loud music or other noise, you have probably just experienced long-term damage to your hearing.
Even if everything seems to be fine, but your hearing is muffled, you should turn the volume down and remove your earbuds. Your hearing can return to normal, but you can still have permanent damage.
Follow these tips to keep your ears safe while you listen to music or play on your devices and consider getting a pair of nicer earbuds that will protect your hearing from future damage if you spend a lot of time using earbuds.