Do Headphones Damage Hearing?
June 23, 2021
With the progression of the pandemic, work from home has become the new norm. This leads to an increased amount of time spent in front of our devices. With the increase in online meetings, our ears have been bearing the brunt of this increased exposure to headphones or earphones. Various reports online have shown that about 22% of children & adolescents and 17% of adults have had an extreme effect on their hearing due to excessive exposure to noise.
What do these studies tell us about ear health?
Do Headphones Lead to Ear Infections?
There is no actual risk of fungal infections with wearing headphones or earbuds, owing to the fact that they do not fit tightly in your ear canal. However, prolonged usage of headphones/earbuds/earphones pose a threat to ear infections. The ear canal should not be clogged or obstructed for prolonged amounts of time as this can prevent wax from exiting the canal and lead to unnecessary buildups. Earbuds are prime surfaces for dirt and/or accumulation leading to infection if not cleaned regularly.
How Do Earphones Damage Your Ears?
One of the most important things to consider is that personal listening devices are tuned to a maximum volume of about 105 dB to 110 dB. Exposure to sound levels above 85 dB for over 2 hours can lead to ear damage while exposure to 105 lB to 110 dB for even 5 minutes can cause ear damage or pain. Experts recommend sound levels between 60 dB to 85 dB as safe.
Higher sound levels can cause damage in less than an hour. While at minimal sounds levels, for example, in a zoom/google meet meetings, they can be used for an hour or even longer. It is important to note that listening at a comfortable sound level should be safe for an unlimited amount of time. It is imperative to balance the duration of exposure with the loudness of the audio.
Earphones or Headphones Which is Safer?
Both earbuds and headphones are capable of leading to hearing damage, pain or even loss. Noise-induced hearing loss has become an issue. While we use headphones and earbuds to cancel out the outside noise, most earbuds do not have the capability to cancel out the ambient noise. This leads us to increase the volume to jarring levels that aid in ear damage.
While both earbuds and headphones are capable of risk at high levels, earbuds pose a larger threat. Outside the ear headphone is a safer option as they leave some form of buffer space between the audio and the ear canal.
How to Use Earphones Without Damaging Ears?
If you’re wondering how to use earphones safely, follow these 5 hacks for a safer listening experience.
- Conduct the Ringing Test
In the middle of your earphone usage, in complete silence, focus on your hearing. There should be a slight ringing sound.
- Distance Test
Place the earphone in front of you and play the music, if you can hear it, it is too loud!
- 60% is the top score!
Maintain the volume at not more than 60%.
- Take Breaks
Take breaks between listening periods.
- Keep it clean!
Clean the earphones with a dry, non-abrasive, lint-free cloth.
Side Effects of Using Earphones
- Ringing, clicking or buzzing in the ears
- Difficulty hearing
- Muffled sounds
- Ear infection
- Ear injury
- Hearing loss
When to be Worried?
Hearing damage is irreversible, it is hence, in your best interests to be proactive about your ear health! Symptoms like ear pain, obstructed hearing, ringing or clogging feeling, dizziness or impaired balance are telltale signs of a bacterial ear infection. When infected by a fungal infection, you might not experience any pain, but there might be an increase in itchiness in your ear and you might experience trouble hearing.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is imperative to contact a doctor immediately to avoid further damage.