Why Your Headphones Are Too Loud

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In today’s world, we often find ourselves using headphones to tune out a multitude of outside noise- chatty coworkers, train rumblings, roommates watching TV shows, and more. Unfortunately, cranking up the volume of your headphones can permanently damage your hearing, and approximately 26 million Americans between 20 and 69 have noise induced hearing loss.

Teenagers are especially susceptible to damaging their hearing by using headphones; research shows that 81% of teens listen to music with earphones, and rates of hearing loss among teenagers today is about 30% higher than it was in the 1980s and 1990s. However, teenagers are blissfully ignorant when it comes to how loud volumes can affect their hearing; only 8% of teenagers believe that hearing loss is a major health concern, yet 46% of teens show potential signs of hearing loss with occasional ringing, roaring, buzzing, or pain in their ears. It is a balancing act for parents. Concern for their children’s health is very important, but having a little peace and quiet in the house is also good to have every once in a while.

The disconnect likely stems from how hearing loss occurs. When we hear, sound travels into our ear and vibrates through various passageways, eventually rippling across hair-like cells in the inner ear and sending electrical impulses to recognize sounds in the brain. Hearing loss occurs when these hair cells are damaged, and people (teenagers especially) fail to realize that we have a finite number of these hair cells.

Hearing loss occurs after long term exposure to sounds over 85 decibels or a one-time exposure to an intensely loud noise, which many U.S. veterans experience after hearing explosions and gunfire. Other examples of loud noises over 85 decibels include fireworks, sirens, motorcycle engines, and maximum volume on an MP3 player. It is important to try and use protection whenever possible.

Fight hearing loss by using noise cancelling over-the-ear headphones, which limit environmental noise and allow you to listen at a low volume. You can also download apps that prevent the volume from exceeding a preset decibel level to protect your ears. If you wear earbuds for 6 hours a day at a certain level you can observe hearing loss over a period of time. If you are going to use headphones take breaks every once in a while to give your ears a rest.

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