Headphones Today, Hearing Aids Tomorrow?

Can headphones lead to hearing loss?

Who doesn’t love plugging earbuds or headphones into your smartphone and escaping to a private world of the music you love? While personal listening devices are all the rage these days, we often don’t realize just how damaging they can be to our hearing.

What’s The Problem with Headphones?

Earbuds and headphones are everywhere you look, from your kid on the couch to commuters on the bus and your Wednesday night gym buddies. They’re small and easy to use, allowing you to tune out the world around you. So what’s the big deal?

Since the earbuds are located in your ear canal, the sensitive cells in your inner ear are being exposed to dangerously high levels of sound. This can create permanent, noise induced damage, even after just one afternoon. This is especially problematic for teens and young adults. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that around half of teens in developed countries like the US are exposed to unsafe sound levels, and risk early hearing loss.

How to Protect Your Hearing

You don’t have to give up your music to be safe. But you do have to make some changes in how you listen if you want to keep your hearing.

The 60/60 rule

The biggest problem with using headphones and earbuds is how easy it is to turn up the volume and damage hearing. Any time background noise gets in the way, we reach for the volume controls. Experts say never to listen with headphones at more than 60% of the maximum volume. This will keep your hearing safe. Wonder how loud is too loud? If the person sitting beside you can hear what you’re listening too, the volume is far too loud.

It’s not just about the volume, but the length of time you’re listening. Give your ears a break! It’s best to never listen for more than 60 minutes at a time. This protects your inner ears from damage and gives them a rest from the loud sounds being blasted right into their delicate structures. Make sure your children are following this rule too. Most iPods and iPads have maximum volume adjustment apps, so you can easily reduce the volume and protect their hearing.

Invest in Better Headphones

Rob Jaczko, Chair of Music Production and Engineering at Berklee College of Music in Boston, knows about sound. He recommends investing in quality, well-fit headphones that are noise canceling. Mr. Jaczko wears these, and he makes sure his kids do too. Noise-canceling headphones will protect your ears by blocking out background noises and providing great sound. This means you’ll be satisfied with the quality and volume, and won’t overcompensate by increasing the volume to unsafe levels.

Watch for Early Warning Signs

Have you noticed any unwelcome buzzing or ringing in your ears? It could be tinnitus, a warning sign that something isn’t quite right with your hearing. Most noticeable in quiet settings, you’ll often experience this ringing after you take off your headphones. If you’re struggling with tinnitus, you are at higher risk of hearing loss.

Are you having trouble hearing everyday sounds like horns or doorbells? Maybe you’ve missed the stove alarm or your phone ringing one too many times this week. Not hearing these subtle sounds is a sign that something isn’t right. Give your ears a break from headphones and earbuds, and look after your hearing.

For more tips on how to listen safely, visit If you think you’re experiencing hearing loss, the best thing you can do is to make an appointment to get your hearing tested.

We offer some of the best hearing aids in St. Louis. If you are looking to improve your hearing, Contact us at Greentree Audiology for a consultation! We’ll analyze your hearing loss, and advise you on what you need to do to protect your hearing and treat hearing loss.

Greentree Audiology

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