Earbuds are here, there, and everywhere. We bet you own some! While they are not obviously a danger, anything we put in our ears can come with a risk. Even more so when it emits loud sounds.
Can Earbuds Cause Hearing Loss?
This is becoming a more popular question. More and more people now have access to an apparatus that plays sound - phones, MP3 players, TVs, computers, the lot. Whether you are on a commute, out for a jog, in the gym, or at home, it's highly likely that you may put on a pair of headphones. Now, this is where the problem may begin.
Dr. Robert A. Dobie, a clinical professor of otolaryngology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio told Time, that: "You can certainly hurt your hearing listening to loud music, whether through earbuds or something else." Normal levels of sound, those below 85dB are unlikely to damage our ears. But, when noise peaks 85dB, this is where issues may arise.
How Loud Is Too Loud?
According to Stony Brook School of Medicine, damage to our hearing can occur:
- At 95 dB, damage will occur after four hours of exposure per day.
- At 100 dB, damage will occur after two hours of exposure per day.
- At 105 dB, damage will occur after one hour of exposure per day.
- At 110 dB, damage will occur after 30 minutes of exposure per day.
- At 115 dB, damage will occur after 15 minutes of exposure per day.
- At 120-plus dB, damage occurs almost immediately.
Listening to music via earbuds can lead to hearing loss if excessive sound peaks the above for dangerous durations.
How Earbuds Can Damage Your Ears
Earbuds and headphones send sound directly into the canal. This focus of sound, especially at high volumes, can really damage our ears. Their design means it is very difficult for sound to travel anywhere else, other than into the ear itself - it's their purpose after all. Earbuds are perfectly safe for listening to music, but it is the excessive volume that gets channelled down the canal and towards the eardrum. As a result, noise-induced hearing loss can be an unfortunate repercussion. Furthermore, as with gigging and live performance, tinnitus may also occur.
What Is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
Noise-induced hearing loss is the name of the hearing impairment when exposure to excessively loud noise is to blame. The longer you are exposed to harmfully loud sound, the higher the risk that hearing loss may occur. It can develop over time or within an instance depending on the level of decibels present. In many cases, this is irreversible and becomes known as sensorineural hearing loss due to its permanent nature. High-intensity sound enters the ear canal and it is the damage to the hair cells within the ear that cause the loss of hearing. If we are exposed to harsh sounds regularly every day, then damage occurs when noise levels regularly peak 85dB.
How To Prevent Hearing Loss
If earbuds lead to hearing loss due to harmful sound exposure, so can many other things. For example:
- Careers such working in agriculture come with a higher risk of causing hearing loss than more office-based professions
- Travel and commuting on trains, airplanes, or generally being stuck in traffic for lengthy periods of time
- Urban living and the vast increase in city populations
To protect your hearing in these kinds of scenarios, earplugs may be your saviour. They can prevent the harmful noises from entering the ear canal, and b doing so, help prevent hearing loss. If you do believe you may be suffering from a hearing impairment, hearing aids are a practical management solution.
Check Your Hearing For FreeTake our online hearing test to check for signs of potential hearing loss.
Results will indicate if you should take further action to protect your ears. Post-test, we recommend that you consult an audiologist who will be able to provide better insights into your state of hearing. They will be able to diagnose its root cause, which may be due to excessive noise exposure from earbuds or headphones.
About Hearing DirectWe are one of the world's leading hearing aid specialists. HearingDirect offers a wide range of affordable products, as well as information resources to help improve the quality of life for the hard of hearing. We sell:
- Hearing aids,
- Accessories such as earplugs,
- and amplified devices such as super loud alarm clocks and amplified phones.
Author: Joan McKechnie
After qualifying as a Speech-Language Pathologist and Audiologist Joan has spent most of her 20 year career in hearing-care related roles. She has a wealth of experience within the hearing aid and hearing rehabilitation fields and has worked in manufacturing environments with two hearing aid companies helping to develop products and roll out new technologies. Joan has been involved with Hearing Direct since its launch and enjoys the online retail environment which seeks to provide easier access to hearing products and accessories. She is HCPC registered. Read Joan's full bio here.