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Headphones Are Causing Permanent Hearing Impairment

The WHO (World Health Organisation) shared disturbing data in 2020, unrelated to the global pandemic, but it reported that more than 1 billion youngsters and teens today are at a high risk of life-altering auditory impairment caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises. There are two primary cause reasons for this expected hearing loss:

  • Prolonged loud sound exposure – about 85 dB (decibels) for about 8 hours
  • Short-term exposure to sound blasts – above 100 dB of sound for about 15 minutes

The World Health Organisation has outlined several risk factors like clubs, concerts, and other venues with loud music. However, the leading cause of hearing loss is attributed to listening to loud music using earphones, earbuds and headphones connected to smart devices.

Hearing Loss and Headphones

According to official data, people under 35 years of age have higher chances of listening to music through mobile devices than any other age demographic WHO suggested that about 50% of such an audience listens to higher volumes than the healthy recommended volume levels. Most youngsters using in-ear headphones listen to blasting music at full volume.

Consider an Apple smartphone! The highest volume on an iPhone while using a headset goes up to 102 decibels. Consequently, users can suffer hearing damage after even a short while if they continue listening at this volume.

But it’s not just the WHO that has published concerning reports. One study by Harvard Medical School in 2010 put forth data that showed that the growing popularity of headsets for music has exponentially increased the hearing loss diagnosis rate in people under 20 years of age. Undoubtedly, the unhealthy use of earphones or headphone technology has been causing chronic hearing impairment in users for over a decade now.

Setting Healthy Sound and Noise Exposure Limits:

Hearing impairment from noise exposure can pile up after a single long exposure or over time through bad auditory habits. The world is changing around us, with more and more people finding themselves exposed to unsafe levels of noise that can affect their auditory health irreversibly. Experts have reported incidents where youngsters encounter perforated eardrums after using earbuds at a very high volume.

There are several ways to ensure your ears and hearing are safe in the long term. This is by limiting your exposure to everyday loud noises, either by time or volume. A safe rule of thumb to follow is 70dBA.  60/60 rule for exposure is not more than 60%volume of any device for more than 60minutes

Sound is measured using a unit known as decibels. As stated before, prolonged usage of headphones to listen to music at 85dBA can cause hearing loss in the long run. However, if you can bring down the volume to a decent 70dB, this risk of damage reduces significantly.

Mobile phones don’t usually have a decibel marker and indicate volume through a numerical scale. Experts recommend using your device at the 50% volume setting. You should also consider reducing the time spent listening to music over headphones.

Hearing loss with age is common. However, the age at which hearing impairment starts is reducing at an alarming rate. Earlier, it began at 60 years old. But now, people as young as 20-30 years of age are experiencing auditory impairment too.

You May Also Like: KNOW THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF HEARING LOSS, CAUSES, AND TREATMENTS

How Does Loud Noise Damage Hearing?

The human ear is divided into three parts that function together for signal processing.

  • Outer ear
  • Middle ear
  • Inner ear

The inner ear has a part known as the cochlea that contains microscopic hair cells. They gather soundwaves, convert them into electrical signals and transmit them to the brain. When you listen to loud noises at close range for too long, it can damage your hair cells permanently. As a result, the cochlea can no longer send sound waves to your brain.

Other parts of your body might heal over time, but a damaged inner ear cannot be reversed. As the extent of damage increases over time, your hearing will only worsen.

Early Warning Signs of Hearing Impairment:

Hearing loss due to loud sound exposure can take a while to detect. Since it is usually a gradual loss, you might not realise it till it’s too late. However, you can look for these signs:

  • Buzzing, roaring or ringing sensations in the ear after you hear any loud sound
  • Noises seeming muffled regularly
  • Consonants might sound unclear regularly

If you detect any of these signs or even feel that your hearing is getting worse, consult a doctor. The doctor can diagnose you or ask you to see a professional audiologist. This is a specialist trained for a hearing evaluation. You can also ask them questions about earphones and hearing damage.

Read About What are the early signs of hearing loss? (Symptoms, Causes, Treatment)

The Right Way to Jam:

Experts recommend listening to music by following the 60%-60 minute rule.

  • Don’t increase the volume to more than 60% of the maximum possible.
  • Don’t use headphones for more than an hour – 60 minutes – at a stretch.

You can evaluate your present condition by taking an online hearing test for free or by consulting an expert near you.

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