Are Earbuds Safe For Hearing?

Are Earbuds Safe For Hearing?

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss Prevention by exceptional

Earbuds have become essential and everyday items. They are widely used to listen to audio – from music to podcasts and talking on the phone. Earbuds allow people to do this hands-free, making it convenient to multitask. While they are convenient, earbuds are also a common way people are exposed to loud noise. One time or regular exposure to loud noise is a common cause of hearing loss, one of the most common medical conditions that people live with today. Noise induced hearing loss is completely preventable so practicing safety measures, especially if you use earbuds, can significantly protect your hearing health and wellness. 

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Loud noise exposure is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. One time or consistent exposure to loud noise can permanently damage hearing and cause noise induced hearing loss. Loud noise can desensitize and weaken sensory cells in the inner ear. There are thousands of these cells in the cochlea which work to convert incoming sound waves into electrical signals – a critical step in how soundwaves are processed. Once converted, these soundwaves are sent to the brain where they are further processed. This includes assigning meaning to them which is how we understand what we hear. 

Loud noise can desensitize sensory cells in the inner ear, impairing them from effectively processing soundwaves. This results in the brain receiving less auditory information, causing hearing loss. Sensory cells in the cochlea do not regenerate, unlike other types of cells we have. There are also no ways to repair them which means that any damage is permanent, causing chronic noise induced hearing loss. This highlights the importance of protecting hearing health!

Earbud Use & Hearing Loss

There are various ways we can be exposed to excessive sound, including earbud use. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1 billion people are at high risk for developing noise induced hearing loss caused by listening to audio on personal devices and other recreational noise exposure. Earbuds are a common way people listen to audio on personal devices like their phone, putting hearing health at risk. 

You are likely wondering how loud earbuds can get. Sound is measured in decibels (dB) and according to experts, noise that exceeds 85dB is potentially hazardous for hearing health. This is equivalent to busy city traffic, a hair dryer, or a noisy restaurant during peak hours. Earbuds, depending on the type and the device it is connected to, can reach dangerously high noise levels. A great example of this is earbuds that are connected to an iPhone which on its highest volume setting, can reach around 102dB! At this level, hearing health is really at risk and exposure time should not go past 7 minutes which is just about 2 songs. This highlights how dangerous earbud use can be.  

Tips to Protect Hearing

It is important to know that noise induced hearing loss is completely preventable. Practicing the following strategies can protect your hearing health: 

  • Apply 50-60% rule: experts recommend using the 50-60% rule which means using 50% – 60% of the total volume on your device. This helps you maintain lower volume settings, promoting safe listening. 
  • Use noise canceling headphones: noise canceling technology reduces background noise. This prevents you from needing to increase the volume when navigating noisier settings, allowing you to listen to audio more safely in all environments. 
  • Reduce exposure: there are many ways you can reduce your exposure to loud noise. This includes wearing protection, avoiding noisy settings, opting for quieter places, taking alternate routes to avoid traffic etc. 
  • Take breaks: it is important to take breaks from noise exposure. You can easily do this by taking 5-10 minute breaks throughout the day where you are not actively listening to audio or excessive noise. This gives your ears  and brain a break from constantly absorbing and processing noise. 
  • Test hearing: another great tip is to have your hearing evaluated regularly. Hearing tests are painless and allow you to monitor your hearing health. This enables you to catch any changes you may experience early, supporting early intervention.

Practicing these safety measures can prevent noise induced hearing loss. Contact us today to learn more about the resources and technologies you can access to support you!