Tech Now + Beyond

You don’t want to hear this but your earphones are unhealthily loud

Earphones are an essential product for many people. With earphones, we can listen to anything at any time.  Most importantly, they are convenient when you do not want to annoy your entire household by blasting Taylor Swift’s album. This is also a high-priority problem now that many individuals are working from home. I, myself, probably use my AirPods daily. When they are not charged, I always have my spare non-Bluetooth set ready to go, just in case!

I wear them the most when doing simple tasks. I would wear them when I would walk to class every day.  I wear them when I exercise. I wear them when I am eating meals by myself or cooking. I wear them when I brush my teeth before bed.

I know this sounds like a lot, but it is not like I wear them in the shower! I promise I do not wear earphones 24 hours a day.  Also, when I do wear them, it is not like I typically wear them for hours at a time. It is more like 20 to 30 minutes.  However, I may have to come to terms with the fact that I need to change some of my habits after learning about the different ways that earphones or earbuds can affect a person’s hearing.

The American Osteopathic Association reports that around 1 in 5 teenagers suffer from a form of hearing loss and that the rate of hearing loss overall is increasing. It does not matter what brand of earphones or earbuds you wear; it is best to be careful. Headphones funnel sound directly into your ear, which is great for sound quality and privacy but could have some potential downfalls when misused for a long period. I am a person who is almost entirely helpless without contacts or glasses, so I plan on protecting my hearing the best that I can.

Your cochlea is the primary sensory organ responsible for hearing and is a chamber filled with fluid that contains small hair cells.  Sound vibrations move the fluid in your ear and cause the hair cells to move. The movement of the hair cells sends neural signals to your brain. Unfortunately, the damage to the hair cells in your inner ear does not heal over time like other cells in your body. Consistent exposure to loud noises over time will most likely cause damage that cannot be prepared. Some signs of hearing loss are ringing, buzzing, and difficulty hearing low volumes.

It turns out that any continuous loud noise can damage your hearing after about an hour and 15 minutes. So, it is important to have an understanding of what is too loud. Most earbuds can produce sounds up to 120 decibels, which is equivalent to you being at a concert. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends not listening to noises above 85 decibels for extended periods. With earphones blasting music so close to your ear canal, you definitely want to be careful.

Luckily, you can incorporate several options into your use of headphones that can help prevent hearing loss!

One way to protect your hearing while wearing headphones is to wear noise-canceling headphones. We all tend to turn the volume up to try to block out outside noise. I am definitely guilty of this. There would be no need to do this with noise-canceling headphones because you do not need to turn the music up to block out outside noise! Secondly, you can limit the amount of time you spend with headphones when possible. The recommended time for earbud use is 60 minutes.

I know that 60 minutes may be unrealistic for some people, but you can always keep the sound down. Another way to protect your ears is to simply listen to audio at a lower volume. Do not attempt to block out the noise around you by turning up what you are listening to. You can even go into your settings on your phone and set a max volume for when you are listening to music.  I am going to try this ASAP!

The good thing is that we do not necessarily need to stop using earphones or earbuds. All we have to do to protect our hearing is to consider making a few changes. Protecting our hearing is important! In a few years, when you are listening to “Hello” by Adele and she sings, “Hello, can you hear me?” you’ll want to be able to hear her loud and clear!

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By Tatayana Allen

Tatayana Allen is the Junior Love and Health Editor and journalist for The Tempest. During her time at the University of Virginia, she was a Media Studies major and a member of the Cavalier Marching Band. Tatayana loves anything related to fashion, music, and photography.