Woman listening to ear buds in danger of hearing loss.

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

Often, you don’t grasp how valuable something is until you have to live without it (yes, we are not being discreet around here today).

So you’re so happy when you finally get a working pair of earbuds. Now your life is full of perfectly clear and vibrant sound, including music, podcasts, and audiobooks. Earbuds have so many uses other than listening to tunes and a large percentage of individuals use them.

But, regrettably, earbuds can present some considerable risks to your ears because so many people are using them for so many listening tasks. If you’re wearing these devices all day every day, you could 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-quality listening experience. That isn’t always the case anymore. Contemporary earbuds can supply amazing sound in a very small space. Back throughout the 2010s, smartphone manufacturers popularized these little devices by offering a pair with every new smartphone purchase (amusing enough, they’re somewhat rare these days when you purchase a new phone).

Partly because these sophisticated earbuds (with microphones, even) were so easily accessible, they began showing up everywhere. Whether you’re out and about, or spending time at home, earbuds are one of the principal ways you’re talking on the phone, viewing your favorite show, or listening to tunes.

Earbuds are useful in quite a few contexts because of their reliability, mobility, and convenience. Because of this, many people use them almost all the time. And that’s become a bit of an issue.

It’s all vibrations

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

Your inner ear is the intermediary for this process. There are very small hairs inside of your ear that vibrate when exposed to sound. These are not large vibrations, they’re tiny. These vibrations are recognized by your inner ear. Your brain makes sense of these vibrations after they’re transformed into electrical impulses by a nerve in your ear.

It’s not what type of sound but volume that causes hearing loss. So whether you’re listening to NPR or Death Metal, the risk is the same.

What are the risks of using earbuds?

The danger of hearing damage is widespread because of the appeal of earbuds. Across the globe, more than a billion people are at risk of developing hearing loss, according to one study.

Using earbuds can raise your danger of:

  • Hearing loss contributing to cognitive decline and social isolation.
  • Needing to utilize a hearing aid so that you can communicate with friends and loved ones.
  • Continued subjection increasing the advancement of sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Developing deafness caused by sensorineural hearing loss.

There’s some evidence to suggest that using earbuds may present greater risks than using regular headphones. The reason may be that earbuds move sound right to the most sensitive components of the ear. But the jury’s still out on this, and not all audiologists are on board.

Besides, what’s more significant is the volume, and any pair of headphones is able to deliver dangerous levels of sound.

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

Perhaps you think there’s an easy fix: I’ll simply turn down the volume on my earbuds as I binge my new favorite show for 24 episodes straight. Well… that would be helpful. But it may not be the total solution.

This is because how long you listen is as significant as how loud it is. Modest volume for five hours can be equally as damaging as top volume for five minutes.

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

  • If you’re listening at 80% volume, listen for a max of 90 minutes, and if you want to listen more turn down the volume.
  • Activate volume alerts on your device. These warnings can let you know when your listening volume gets a bit too high. Naturally, then it’s up to you to adjust your volume, but it’s better than nothing!
  • As a basic rule of thumb, only listen to your media at 40-50% volume.
  • If your ears begin to experience pain or ringing, immediately stop listening.
  • Give yourself plenty of breaks. It’s best to take frequent and lengthy breaks.
  • If you don’t want to think about it, you may even be able to change the maximum volume on your smart device.

Your ears can be stressed by using headphones, particularly earbuds. So try to cut your ears some slack. After all, sensorineural hearing loss doesn’t (usually) develop suddenly; it occurs gradually and over time. Most of the time people don’t even notice that it’s occurring until it’s too late.

Sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible

Typically, NHIL, or noise-related hearing loss, is irreversible. When the stereocilia (small hair-like cells in your ears that detect sound) get damaged by overexposure to loud sound, they can never recover.

The damage is barely noticeable, especially in the early stages, and develops slowly over time. That can make NIHL hard to detect. It might be getting slowly worse, in the meantime, you believe it’s perfectly fine.

Unfortunately, NIHL can’t be cured or reversed. Still, there are treatments created to mitigate and minimize some of the most considerable effects of sensorineural hearing loss (the most popular of such treatments is a hearing aid). These treatments, however, can’t counter the damage that’s been done.

This means prevention is the best approach

That’s why so many hearing specialists place a substantial focus on prevention. Here are a few ways to keep listening to your earbuds while lowering your risk of hearing loss with good prevention practices:

  • Use other kinds of headphones. Put simply, switch from earbuds to other types of headphones once in a while. Try utilizing over-the-ear headphones too.
  • Schedule routine visits with us to have your hearing examined. We will help establish the general health of your hearing by having you screened.
  • Utilize earbuds and headphones that incorporate noise-canceling tech. This will mean you won’t need to turn the volume quite so high so that you can hear your media clearly.
  • Wear hearing protection if you’re going to be subject to loud noises. Ear plugs, for example, work remarkably well.
  • Control the amount of damage your ears are encountering while you are not using earbuds. Avoid exceedingly loud environments whenever possible.
  • Use volume-restricting apps on your phone and other devices.

You will be able to preserve your sense of hearing for many years by taking measures to prevent hearing loss, especially NHIL. And, if you do wind up requiring treatment, like hearing aids, they will be more effective.

So… are earbuds the enemy?

So does all this mean you should grab your nearest set of earbuds and chuck them in the garbage? Not Exactly! Not at all! Brand-name earbuds can get expensive.

But your strategy may need to be modified if you’re listening to your earbuds constantly. These earbuds may be damaging your hearing and you may not even recognize it. Your best defense, then, is knowing about the danger.

When you listen, regulate the volume, that’s the first step. But talking to us about the state of your hearing is the next step.

If you think you may have damage as a result 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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