Woman listening to ear buds in danger of hearing loss.

Have you ever forgotten your Earbuds in your pocket and they ended up going through the wash or maybe lost them altogether? All of a sudden, your morning jog is so much more boring. You have a dull and dreary commute to work. And your virtual meetings are suffering from bad audio quality.

Sometimes, you don’t grasp how valuable something is until you’ve lost it (yes, we are not being subtle around here today).

So when you finally find or buy a working pair of earbuds, you’re thankful. The world is instantly dynamic again, full of music, podcasts, and crystal clear audio. Earbuds are everywhere these days, and people use them for a lot more than simply listening to their favorite tunes (though, of course, they do that too).

But, regrettably, earbuds can present some significant risks to your hearing because so many people use them for so many listening tasks. If you’re using these devices all day every day, you might be putting your hearing at risk!

Earbuds are unique for several reasons

In previous years, you would require bulky, earmuff-style, headphones if you wanted a high-quality listening experience. That’s not always the situation now. Fabulous sound quality can be created in a very small space with contemporary earbuds. Back throughout the 2010s, smartphone makers popularized these little devices by offering a pair with every new smartphone purchase (At present, you don’t find that so much).

These little earbuds (frequently they even have microphones) started to show up everywhere because they were so high-quality and available. Whether you’re talking on the phone, listening to music, or watching movies, earbuds are one of the chief ways to do that (whether you are on the go or not).

It’s that combination of convenience, portability, and dependability that makes earbuds practical in a wide variety of contexts. Lots of individuals use them pretty much all of the time as a result. And that’s become somewhat of an issue.

Vibrations are what it’s all about

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

Your inner ear is the mediator for this process. There are tiny hairs inside of your ear that vibrate when exposed to sound. These vibrations are infinitesimal, they’re tiny. These vibrations are recognized by your inner ear. At this stage, there’s a nerve in your ear that converts those vibrations into electrical impulses, and that’s what lets your brain make heads or tails of it all.

It’s not what kind of sound but volume that results in hearing damage. Which means the risk is the same whether you’re listening to Death Metal or an NPR program.

What are the dangers of using earbuds?

Because of the appeal of earbuds, the danger of hearing damage as a result of loud noise is very widespread. Across the globe, more than a billion people are at risk of developing hearing loss, according to one study.

Using earbuds can increase your risk of:

  • Experiencing social isolation or cognitive decline as a result of hearing loss.
  • Not being able to communicate with your friends and family without wearing a hearing aid.
  • Experiencing sensorineural hearing loss with repeated exposure.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss resulting in deafness.

There might be a greater risk with earbuds than traditional headphones, according to some evidence. The thinking here is that the sound is directed toward the more sensitive components of your ear. But the jury’s still out on this, and not all audiologists are convinced.

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

It isn’t just volume, it’s duration, also

You may be thinking, well, the fix is simple: I’ll simply lower the volume on my earbuds as I binge my new favorite program for 24 episodes in a row. Naturally, this would be a good plan. But there’s more to it than that.

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

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

  • Take regular breaks. The more breaks (and the longer length they are), the better.
  • Many smart devices let you decrease the max volume so you won’t even have to worry about it.
  • If you are listening at 80% volume, listen for a max of 90 minutes, and if you want to listen longer turn the volume down.
  • Stop listening immediately if you hear ringing in your ears or your ears start to ache.
  • Make sure that your device has volume level warnings turned on. If your listening volume goes too high, a warning will alert you. Once you hear this alert, it’s your job to lower the volume.
  • It’s a good plan not to go above 40% – 50% volume level.

Your ears can be stressed by utilizing headphones, specifically earbuds. So try to cut your ears some slack. Because sensorineural hearing loss normally occurs slowly over time not suddenly. Which means, you may not even observe it happening, at least, not until it’s too late.

Sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (or NIHL) is usually permanent. That’s because it’s sensorineural in nature (meaning, the cells in your ear become irreparably damaged due to noise).

The damage is hardly noticeable, especially in the early stages, and develops slowly over time. That can make NIHL hard to detect. You may think your hearing is perfectly fine, all the while it is slowly getting worse and worse.

Sadly, NIHL can’t be cured or reversed. However, there are treatments created to mitigate and reduce some of the most significant impacts of sensorineural hearing loss (the most popular of such treatments is a hearing aid). These treatments, however, are not able to reverse the damage that’s been done.

This means prevention is the most useful strategy

This is why prevention is stressed by so many hearing specialists. Here are some ways to continue to listen to your earbuds while decreasing your risk of hearing loss with good prevention routines:

  • Make regular visits with us to get your hearing checked. We will be able to help you get tested and monitor the overall health of your hearing.
  • Use volume-controlling apps on your phone and other devices.
  • Change up the types of headphones you’re wearing. Put simply, switch from earbuds to other types of headphones sometimes. Try utilizing over-the-ear headphones as well.
  • Wear hearing protection if you’re going to be subject to loud noises. Wear earplugs, for example.
  • Utilize earbuds and headphones that have noise-canceling tech. This will mean you won’t have to turn the volume quite so high so that you can hear your media clearly.
  • When you’re not wearing your earbuds, reduce the amount of noise damage your ears are subjected to. Avoid overly loud environments whenever possible.

Preventing hearing loss, particularly NIHL, can help you protect your sense of hearing for years longer. It can also help make treatments such as hearing aids more effective when you do ultimately need them.

So… are earbuds the enemy?

So does all this mean you should find your nearest set of earbuds and throw them in the garbage? Well, no. Particularly not if you have those Apple AirPods, those little devices are expensive!

But your approach may need to be changed if you’re listening to your earbuds constantly. You may not even recognize that your hearing is being damaged by your earbuds. Your best defense, then, is being aware of the danger.

When you listen, reduce the volume, that’s the first step. But speaking with us about the state of your hearing is the next step.

Think you might have damaged your hearing with earbuds? We can help! Get tested now!

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