Woman listening to ear buds in danger of hearing loss.

Have you ever forgotten your Earbuds in your pocket and they ended up going through the laundry or maybe lost them altogether? Now it’s so boring going for a jog in the morning. Your commute or train ride is dreary and dull. And your virtual meetings are suffering from bad sound quality.

The old saying “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” applies here.

So you’re so happy when you finally get a working pair of earbuds. The world is suddenly vibrant again, full of music, podcasts, and crystal clear audio. Earbuds are all over the place nowadays, and people utilize them for a lot more than only listening to their favorite tunes (though, of course, they do that too).

Unfortunately, in part because they are so easy and so widely used, earbuds present some considerable risks for your ears. If you’re wearing these devices all day every day, you may be putting your hearing in danger!

Earbuds are unique for several reasons

In the past, you would require bulky, earmuff-style, headphones if you wanted a high-fidelity listening experience. That’s all now changed. Modern earbuds can provide stunning sound in a very small space. Back throughout the 2010s, smartphone makers popularized these little devices by supplying a pair with every new smartphone purchase (Presently, you don’t find that as much).

These little earbuds (frequently they even have microphones) began showing up all over the place because they were so high-quality and accessible. Whether you’re taking calls, listening to tunes, or watching Netflix, earbuds are one of the chief ways to do that (whether you are on the go or not).

Earbuds are useful in quite a few contexts because of their reliability, mobility, and convenience. Lots of people use them pretty much all of the time consequently. And that’s become a bit of a problem.

Vibrations are what it’s all about

Basically, phone calls, music, or podcasts are all the same. They’re simply waves of moving air molecules. Your brain will then organize the vibrations into categories like “voice” or “music”.

Your inner ear is the mediator for this process. There are tiny hairs along your ear that oscillate when exposed to sound. These vibrations are minute, they’re tiny. These vibrations are distinguished by your inner ear. Your brain makes sense of these vibrations after they are converted into electrical signals by a nerve in your ear.

It’s not what kind of sound but volume that causes hearing loss. Which means the risk is the same whether you’re listening to Death Metal or an NPR program.

The risks of earbud use

The risk of hearing damage is prevalent because of the appeal of earbuds. According to one study, over 1 billion young individuals are at risk of developing hearing loss across the globe.

On an individual level, when you utilize earbuds at high volume, you raise your danger of:

  • Continued subjection increasing the development of sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Not being capable of communicating with your friends and family without wearing a hearing aid.
  • Advancing deafness caused by sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Experiencing social isolation or cognitive decline due to hearing loss.

There may be a greater risk with earbuds than conventional headphones, according to some evidence. The reason may be that earbuds move sound right to the most sensitive components of the ear. Some audiologists think this is the case while others still aren’t sure.

Besides, what’s more important is the volume, and any pair of headphones is capable of delivering dangerous levels of sound.

It isn’t only volume, it’s duration, too

Maybe you think there’s a simple solution: While I’m binging all 24 episodes of my favorite streaming show, I’ll just lower the volume. Of course, this would be a good plan. But there’s more to it than that.

The reason is that it’s not only the volume that’s the issue, it’s the duration. Moderate volume for five hours can be just as harmful as max volume for five minutes.

When you listen, here are some ways to keep it safer:

  • If you don’t want to worry about it, you may even be able to change the maximum volume on your smart device.
  • If your ears begin to experience pain or ringing, immediately stop listening.
  • Make use of the 80/90 rule: Listen at 80% volume for no more than 90 minutes. (Want more time? Reduce the volume.)
  • As a general rule of thumb, only listen to your media at 40-50% volume.
  • Be certain that your device has volume level warnings turned on. If your listening volume goes too high, a warning will alert you. Of course, then it’s your job to adjust your volume, but it’s better than nothing!
  • Take regular breaks. It’s best to take regular and lengthy breaks.

Earbuds specifically, and headphones in general, can be kind of stressful for your ears. So give your ears a break. Because sensorineural hearing loss generally happens gradually over time not immediately. The majority of the time people don’t even recognize that it’s occurring until it’s too late.

Sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (or NIHL) is typically irreversible. That’s because it’s sensorineural in nature (meaning, the cells in your ear become irreversibly damaged because of noise).

The damage is scarcely noticeable, particularly in the early stages, and develops slowly over time. That can make NIHL hard to recognize. You might think your hearing is perfectly fine, all the while it’s gradually getting worse and worse.

Sadly, NIHL cannot be cured or reversed. However, there are treatments designed to offset and decrease some of the most considerable impacts of sensorineural hearing loss (the most popular of such treatments is a hearing aid). But the total damage that’s being done, unfortunately, is permanent.

This means prevention is the best approach

That’s why so many hearing specialists put a substantial focus on prevention. Here are several ways to continue to listen to your earbuds while decreasing your risk of hearing loss with good prevention practices:

  • When you’re not wearing your earbuds, minimize the amount of noise damage your ears are subjected to. Avoid exceedingly loud environments whenever you can.
  • Some headphones and earbuds incorporate noise-canceling technology, try to use those. This will mean you won’t have to turn the volume quite so high so that you can hear your media clearly.
  • Change up the types of headphones you’re using. That is, don’t use earbuds all day every day. Try using over-the-ear headphones as well.
  • Having your hearing checked by us regularly is a smart plan. We will be able to help you get tested and track the general health of your hearing.
  • When you’re listening to your devices, use volume-limiting apps.
  • If you do need to go into an overly loud environment, utilize hearing protection. Ear plugs, for example, work remarkably well.

Preventing hearing loss, particularly NIHL, can help you preserve your sense of hearing for years longer. It can also help make treatments such as hearing aids more effective when you do ultimately need them.

So… are earbuds the enemy?

So does all this mean you should grab your nearest pair of earbuds and chuck them in the garbage? Well, no. Not at all! Brand-name earbuds can be expensive.

But it does mean that, if you’re listening to earbuds regularly, you might want to consider altering your approach. You may not even realize that your hearing is being damaged by your earbuds. Being aware of the danger, then, is your best defense against it.

Step one is to moderate the volume and duration of your listening. The second step is to consult with us about the state of your hearing right away.

If you think you may have damage because of overuse of earbuds, call us right away! We Can Help!

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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