HEARING TIPS

How to Prevent Hearing Loss From Earphone Use

Teenage boy listening to music through headphones

If you believe that hearing loss only happens to seniors, you might be surprised to discover that today 1 out of every 5 teenagers has some level of hearing loss in the United States. Additionally, the rate of hearing loss in teens is 30 percent higher than it was in the 1980s and 90s.

It should come as no great surprise then that this has caught the notice of the World Health Organization, who as a result released a report notifying us that 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are at risk for hearing loss from harmful listening practices.

Those unsafe practices include going to deafening sporting events and concerts without earplugs, along with the unsafe use of headphones.

But it’s the use of earphones that may be the greatest threat.

Think about how frequently we all listen to music since it became portable. We listen in the car, on the job, at the gym, and at home. We listen while out for a stroll and even while drifting off to sleep. We can integrate music into almost every aspect of our lives.

That quantity of exposure—if you’re not cautious—can gradually and quietly steal your hearing at a very early age, resulting in hearing aids in the future.

And considering that no one’s prepared to abandon music, we have to determine other ways to safeguard our hearing. Thankfully, there are simple preventative measures we can all take.

The following are three vital safety tips you can make use of to protect your hearing without sacrificing your music.

1. Limit the Volume

Any sound louder than 85 decibels can produce permanent hearing loss, but you don’t need to buy yourself a sound meter to measure the decibel output of your music.

Instead, a good rule of thumb is to keep your music player volume at no more than 60 percent of the max volume. Any higher and you’ll probably be above the 85-decibel ceiling.

In fact, at their loudest, MP3 players can pump out more than 105 decibels. And since the decibel scale, like the Richter scale, is logarithmic, 105 decibels is about 100 times as intense as 85.

Another tip: normal conversation registers at about 60 decibels. Therefore, if when listening to music you have to raise your voice when talking to someone, that’s a good sign that you should turn the volume down.

2. Limit the Time

Hearing injury is not only a function of volume; it’s also a function of time. The longer you subject your ears to loud sounds, the more substantial the damage can be.

Which brings us to the next general guideline: the 60/60 rule. We already suggested that you keep your MP3 player volume at 60 percent of its maximum volume. The other aspect is making sure you limit the listening time to under 60 minutes a day at this volume. And keep in mind that lower volumes can handle longer listening times.

Taking periodic rest breaks from the sound is also crucial, as 60 decibels without interruption for two hours can be far more damaging than four half-hour intervals distributed throughout the day.

3. Choose the Appropriate Headphones

The reason the majority of us have difficulty keeping our MP3 player volume at less than 60 percent of its maximum is a consequence of background noise. As environmental noise increases, like in a busy gym, we have to compensate by boosting the music volume.

The remedy to this is the use of noise-cancelling headphones. If background noise is lessened, sound volume can be reduced, and high-fidelity music can be enjoyed at lower volumes.

Low-quality earbuds, on the other hand, have the dual disadvantage of sitting closer to your eardrum and being incapable of limiting background noise. The quality of sound is lower as well, and combined with the distracting environmental sound, increasing the volume is the only way to compensate.

The bottom line: it’s truly worth the money to invest in a pair of premium headphones, ideally ones that have noise-cancelling functionality. That way, you can stick to the 60/60 rule without compromising the quality of your music and, more significantly, your hearing down the road.

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