Earbuds are everywhere you look. From the cheap drugstore variety to state of the art, noise cancelling earbuds, everyone has at least one pair. Children and young people use them for entertainment at home on the couch, or walking across town. We wear them on the commute to work, walking the dog, and at the gym. We even use them to talk on the phone, so we have our hands free for other things. They’re small, convenient, a great way to multitask, and we all love them. What you might not know is that wearing earbuds frequently can actually be doing a lot of harm to your hearing.
Dangers To Your Hearing Health
There are two main things to think about when it comes to earbud use. Volume is an important factor. Because earbuds sit so close to your eardrum, turning up the volume can really hurt your ears. When you’re on the bus, it’s tempting to turn up the volume to block out the conversation happening in the seat behind you, and keep turning it up until we reach maximum volume. Do you turn it down again when the conversation behind you finishes? Probably not. Turning up the volume is dangerous, because we often expose ourselves to extremely unsafe noise levels for far too long.
The other thing to consider is duration. How many hours a day do you spend with earbuds firmly in your ears, playing music, listening to a podcast, or catching up with a friend? We think of dangerous sounds as very loud sounds, like a gunshot or emergency sirens. While it’s true that a gunshot at close range is loud enough to damage your hearing, listening to music at moderate levels for the entire day can be just as damaging. If your ears are always exposed to noise, whether from traffic, at the office, or from your earbuds on the drive home, you’re more at risk of developing hearing loss early. Ears need a break from all that sound to prevent hearing loss.
Safe Listening Practices
To keep your ears safe, you need to be aware of the volume you’re listening at. It’s recommended that you don’t play music any louder than around 60 or 70 decibels, just a bit louder than the volume of normal conversation. This way you can listen for a while without doing any damage to your ears. If you’re not sure how loud is too loud, ask the person sitting beside you if they can hear your music. If they can, you need to turn it down. It’s too loud and you’re risking your hearing. It’s a good idea to put a volume cap on your phone or iPod that won’t allow you to turn up the volume more than 60% of the way to keep you from turning up the volume too much.
It’s also important to take breaks when you’ve been listening for a while. Your ears need time to rest and recover, so building this into your listening habits will keep your ears safe. A good rule of thumb is the 60/60 rule. Only listen at around 60% of the volume, and listen for just 60 minutes at a time. Taking a short break every hour, and listening at safe volumes, will protect your ears from hearing loss.
Investing In Quality Earbuds Or Headphones
Earbuds are small and easy to misplace, so it’s tempting to just use the cheapest earbuds you can find. They’re good enough, right? The truth is, cheap earbuds distort sound quality, and you’re more likely to turn up the volume even more to try to hear clearly. Not only that, but they’re more likely to break, so even if you haven’t lost them in a few weeks, you’ll probably have to go buy a new pair anyway. Consider investing in a pair of earbuds that provide good quality sound and don’t damage your hearing. Find noise-canceling earbuds that will allow you to hear what you want to hear without cranking up the volume. Headphones are another good option, since they often do a better job at blocking out other sounds, and sit a bit further away from the ear drum, lowering your risk of damaging the ear. As with earbuds though, you should still follow the 60/60 rule, and make sure you’re not damaging your hearing. Better yet – invest in noise-canceling headphones, which are healthier for your hearing.
If you are concerned about your current hearing abilities, visit us at Hearing Spa for a hearing test and consultation.