You may question the accuracy of news stories claiming that earbuds cause hearing loss or predicting that the current generation using them will become deaf. While these claims are very extreme, there is some truth to them. Listening with earbuds or headphones over time at excessive volume levels can in fact cause hearing loss. Furthermore, any generation who listens to loud volume levels over time can develop hearing loss. As we’ll explore, hearing loss can happen when you unsafely listen to personal listening devices.
What Is a Personal Listening Device?
A personal listening device is a device that can be used with headphones or earbuds to give you control over your volume to create a personalized listening environment. In the 1980’s the Walkman was a popular portable music player, but as technology evolved MP3 players and the iPod took its place. With the recent explosion of smartphones onto the market, the use of personal listening devices has increased dramatically. Longer battery life and better technology has increased the use of smartphones as listening devices. In addition to smartphones, people use tablets, computers, and gaming machines as personal listening devices too.
Types of Earphones
The following types of earphones used to listen with personal listening devices influence listening habits.
Earbuds – Earbuds are earphones that are inserted into the ear canal to bring the sound closer to the eardrum. Without being so big, bulky, and cumbersome, earbuds are a popular choice for individuals who live an active lifestyle and those concerned with cosmetics, portability, and comfort.
Headphones – Individuals who have difficulty getting earbuds to fit properly, often prefer over-the-ear headphones. An improperly fit mold can allow sound to escape and background noise to enter, making hearing difficult.
Noise-cancelling Earphones – These earphones come in both over-the-ear headphones as well as earbud styles. In noisy environments, they reduce the amount of background noise that you hear. As a result, you can listen to your device at a lower level in noisy situations.
Custom Fit Earpieces – One issue with earbuds can be a loose fit. A loose-fitting earbud can allow competing background noise to interfere with the sound you are trying to hear. Instead of cranking up the volume to hear better, our audiologists can make you custom fit earpieces that help you hear better in noise at a lower volume.
Personal Listening Device Risks
• Any time you are listening to sound at 80% of max volume for more than 90 minutes per day, you are putting your hearing at risk. Guidelines used to be stricter when listening to CD players and older devices. They warned that listening to sound at 60% volume for over 60 minutes could be harmful, but the newer personal listening devices such as smartphones have lower maximum output levels.
• It’s not just about how loud you listen to sound, it’s also about how long you are listening. When the volume increases, the time spent listening needs to decrease. In addition, when the duration increases, the volume level needs to decrease. Luckily, you have control over both your listening volume and duration.
• It’s also important to keep your daily work environment in mind. If you work around loud noise levels and then go home and listen to loud music, even for short periods of time, you are increasing your risk of hearing loss. You need to be aware of your total daily amount of noise exposure.
• The place where you choose to listen to your personal listening device matters. If you are listening in quiet, it’s much more likely that you will listen at lower levels and know when it’s too loud. If you’re listening in a noisy environment, you may not realize how loud your volume has become to hear over the noise.
• Be aware of the maximum output levels of your device and earphones to listen safely.
• Listening with two ears rather than one can help you hear better at a lower volume.
Be Smart When Listening to Your Smartphone and Other Personal Listening Devices with Earphones! Call Us Today at (314) 227-0571 for More Information on Listening Safely or to Discuss Custom Earpieces.