Will earbuds damage my hearing?

 

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Health and wellness is often defined by physical strength or cardio ability, but there is so much more to well-being than just that. Hearing health is crucial to overall health and the volume of your music may be jeopardizing your ears. We caught up with Audiologist Cherie Yanke Au.D to discuss this important topic and the following is what she had to say. 

We all love heading out for a run with some of our favourite songs to pump us up and set our pace. Music and exercise are a great combination, but can it damage your hearing?

Smartphones and earbuds (or earphones) have become a part of our everyday lives, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they have to be used with caution. Sound levels and duration of use are the two most important contributing factors when using earphones responsibly.

Over-the-ear headphones have largely been considered the safest option as they sit over the ear, rather than directly in the ear canal, but this is not necessarily true. Again, it all comes down to sound levels, so perhaps the more important factor is whether or not they block outside noise. If external audio, from a busy street or the gym, is making its way through, it can cause a person to up the volume to block it out. Instead, a pair of headphones that block out noise will be the safest choice, as it encourages more responsible listening.

Most smartphones can blast music at 120 decibels, which is equivalent to a rock concert, and can cause nerve damage in less than a minute, eventually leading to noise induced hearing loss. No matter how much you love to rock out to that dubstep while on the spin bike, it’s just not worth permanently damaging your hearing. The solution: Turn it down. You’ll find your hearing adjusts to the level of sound, so set it to what is comfortable in a quiet room (shouldn’t be more than half of your phone’s capacity), and then lock it to max out there.

The second contributing factor is the duration of use. If you are listening at a level of 90 decibels it may not be a problem for a short period of time, but over hours of continuous use it becomes equivalent to a blast of 150 dB to your hearing. So, be sure to give your ears adequate breaks, switching to the car radio or stereo at home rather than always resorting to earbuds.

The best way to reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss is not to discontinue use of earbuds, but learn to use them responsibly. It is worth it to invest in noise-cancelling earphones, which are designed to seal off your ear canal and block out any outside noise. They promote lower listening volumes as the music isn’t competing with any background noise. Custom earbuds are also great option, as they are molded to fit perfectly to your ear canal and are even more effective in serving as a sound block.

For more information, please contact Cherie Yanke Au.D. at cherie@hearjoy.ca


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