Research finds that music can actually help you release, dopamine — a neurotransmitter which is essential in our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning. In this way your favorite songs and music can help you stay happy and emotionally stable. However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. This is especially true if you are listening on a personal listening device such as headphones or even worse – earbuds. These tiny and very portable listening devices fit directly into your ear canal and transmit sound so only you can hear it. However, it is all too easy to damage your hearing with earbuds if you are not careful.
Earbuds vs. Headphones
Whether you are using your personal listening device with headphones, which fit over the ears, trapping the sound around the ear, or wearing earbuds, which fit directly into the ear canal, you run the risk of hearing damage if you listen irresponsibly. When listening to personal listening devices it is all too common and natural to want to turn up the volume in order to cancel out the sounds of the world. This can cause quite a risk if you are in a noisy place where the decibel level can soar, as multiple ambient sounds and conversations conglomerate into a very noisy atmosphere. While there are noise canceling headphones on the market that can cancel the commotion by transmitting a sort of inverted soundwave which detects and nullifies the ambient noise, your average headphone or earbud does not offer this feature. This can cause most listeners to turn up the volume and not even notice they are doing damage.
How Much is Too Loud?
When you are transmitting sound so close to your ear canal there is nothing that stands in the way of you and hearing loss except for understanding what a safe listening level may be. Hearing damage can occur when the tiny hairs of the inner ear are damaged or destroyed due to loud noises. The louder the noise and the longer the length of exposure, the faster and more severe the damage can be. Any decibel level which reaches over 85 has the potential to permanently damage hearing. The average Smartphone which is one of the most common personal listening devices in this day and age can transmit sounds through earbuds which can reach 120 decibels easily. Match this with the very common extended listening exposure that most people engage with due to unlimited streaming of media and information and you have set yourself up for the perfect storm for hearing damage.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
The danger of earbuds and headphones is that they put an entirely younger generation at risk for hearing loss. While age related hearing loss is still the most common form of hearing loss, about 40 million US adults aged 20-69 years have noise-induced hearing loss. Even more alarming, over 1 in 2 adults in the US with noise induced hearing loss do not work in noisy professions, meaning that the hearing damage is due to a recreational activity such as headphones. While enjoying and listening to your favorite music and media is important, it is important to understand how to listen safely so you can continue to hear clearly for years.
How to Listen Safely
One of the most important rules of thumb when using earbuds is to make sure to not turn the volume up past 60%. This can be confusing however since different sound files can be recorded in different formats, causing constant fluctuations in volume. Be sure to listen carefully and if you feel the urge to turn up the volume on your earbuds to drown out the sound, consider investing in a pair of noise canceling headphones instead. These amazing and high-tech devices cancel out the competing ambient sounds, so you are not tempted to continually boost up the volume. In addition to monitoring your volume make sure to take listening breaks as well. Giving your ears a break every hour for even 15 minutes will allow your ears to rest and recover.
Treating Noise Induced Hearing Loss
If a hearing loss does occur, it is often permanent, however, this does not mean that your hearing loss is untreatable. Make an appointment to have your hearing tested. If a hearing loss is detected your audiologist can help you find the best treatment to make it so you can hear your favorite people and music clear again. In the meantime, listen safely and enjoy the sounds in your life!