Earbud Use Could Harm Your Hearing 

Earbuds are an essential item that many people use in everyday life. Whether it’s to listen to music, your factorite podcast, or talk on the phone; earbuds use is common. While these devices make listening to audio convenient, allowing us to do so handsfree, earbud use can also affect hearing health. In fact, some earbuds can reach levels that are hazardous for hearing, contributing to the development of noise induced hearing loss. It is important to practice strategies to protect your hearing health while using earbuds. 

Understanding Noise Induced Hearing Loss 

Loud noise exposure is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss can be caused by one time or consistent exposure to loud noise. Sound is measured in units referred to as decibels (dB) and noise above 85dB is considered potentially dangerous for hearing. For perspective, this is equivalent to busy city traffic, a noisy restaurant during peak hours, and a hair dryer. Loud noise can damage sensory cells in the inner ear. Sensory cells in the inner ear play a critical role in how we hear and process sound. These cells (there are thousands in the cochlea) convert incoming soundwaves into electrical signals that get sent to the brain. The brain is then able to further process these signals, assigning meaning to them which allows us to understand what we hear. 

Loud noise can desensitize and weaken these cells, reducing their capacity to effectively process soundwaves. This results in the brain receiving less auditory information, causing hearing loss. Unlike other types of cells we have, sensory cells in the inner ear do not regenerate. There are also no medical interventions that can repair or replenish these cells. This means that the damage they experience is permanent, producing chronic noise induced hearing loss. 

Impact of Earbud Use on Hearing Health

Earbuds are actually a common way people are exposed to loud noise. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1 billion people are at high risk for 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. So how loud can earbuds actually get? 

Earbuds, depending on the type and the device it is connected to, can reach dangerously high noise levels. For example, earbuds that are connected to an iPhone playing audio on the highest setting, can reach around 102dB! At this level, safe exposure time is around 7 minutes. This reveals how hazardous earbud use can be for hearing health.

Tips to Protect Your Hearing Health

Fortunately, noise induced hearing loss is totally preventable. Implementing safety measures can protect your hearing while allowing you to use earbuds comfortably. The following strategies can significantly protect your hearing health: : 

  • Apply 50-60% rule: experts recommend using the 50-60% rule which describes keeping your device at 50% – 60% of the maximum volume. Maintaining lower volume settings allows you to safely listen to audio using earbuds. 
  • Measure sound: measure noise levels so that you are aware how loud your device is. You can do this by using a downloadable app that measures noise levels including: NIOSH Sound Level Meter App (iOS), NoiSee (iOS), SLPnFFT Noise Meter (iOS), Sound Meter X (iOS), Sound Meter (Android), and SoundPrint (iOS and Android). Also, the health app that comes with iPhones and the Apple watch can also measure decibels and you can set alerts when the volume becomes too loud. 
  • Use noise canceling headphones: noise cancellation technology is designed to reduce background noise. This prevents you from having to turn up the volume when moving through noisier environments, allowing you to listen to audio more safely. 
  • Take breaks: take 5-10 minute listening breaks throughout the day. This gives your ears and brain a break from constantly absorbing and processing sound. 

Integrating these tips can protect your hearing and allow you to safely use earbuds in everyday life. In addition to these strategies, be sure to have your hearing tested regularly. This allows you to monitor your hearing health and address any symptoms you may experience over time. Contact us today to learn more about how you can protect and prioritize your hearing health and wellness.