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What are the effects on hearing of in ear headphones?

What are the effects on hearing of in ear headphones?


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I have been told many times by my teachers and grandparents that using in ear headphones will ruin my hearing, but I was unsure of these claims. So of course I turned to This Site to help me.

So really I'd like to know the effect on hearing from frequent earphone use (particularly as I listen to quite a lot of loud rock music)?

Thanks.


The main effect on hearing is the volume of the sound. Both the intensity and duration matter. However, it seems like hearing loss from personal music players is not as prevalent as from other causes like gunfire or occupational noise exposure (see also here).

The specific problem with in-ear headphones is people tend to listen to them louder than other types of headphones, here is an example study that shows this result.

So, in summary, there isn't anything wrong with in-ear headphones if you listen at a low volume, but be wary that peoples' tendency is to listen louder with in-ear headphones, and you already mentioned liking loud music. The volume is going to be your problem.

Be very wary with your hearing though: once you have lost hearing, there is no way to get it back at this time. Hearing aids only temporarily compensate for the loss. You might be okay now but regret a lifetime of noise exposure by the time you are an older adult.

References:

Clark, W. W. (1991). Noise exposure from leisure activities: a review. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 90(1), 175-181.

Hodgetts, W. E., Rieger, J. M., & Szarko, R. A. (2007). The effects of listening environment and earphone style on preferred listening levels of normal hearing adults using an MP3 player. Ear and hearing, 28(3), 290-297.

Mostafapour, S. P., Lahargoue, K., & Gates, G. A. (1998). Noise‐induced hearing loss in young adults: The role of personal listening devices and other sources of leisure noise. The Laryngoscope, 108(12), 1832-1839.


The effects of listening environment and earphone style on preferred listening levels of normal hearing adults using an MP3 player

Objectives: The main objective of this study was to determine the influence of listening environment and earphone style on the preferred-listening levels (PLLs) measured in users' ear canals with a commercially-available MP3 player. It was hypothesized that listeners would prefer higher levels with earbud headphones as opposed to over-the-ear headphones, and that the effects would depend on the environment in which the user was listening. A secondary objective was to use the measured PLLs to determine the permissible listening duration to reach 100% daily noise dose.

Design: There were two independent variables in this study. The first, headphone style, had three levels: earbud, over-the-ear, and over-the-ear with noise reduction (the same headphones with a noise reduction circuit). The second, environment, also had 3 levels: quiet, street noise and multi-talker babble. The dependent variable was ear canal A-weighted sound pressure level. A 3 x 3 within-subjects repeated-measures ANOVA was used to analyze the data. Thirty-eight normal hearing adults were recruited from the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta. Each subject listened to the same song and adjusted the level until it "sounded best" to them in each of the 9 conditions.

Results: Significant main effects were found for both the headphone style and environment factors. On average, listeners had higher preferred listening levels with the earbud headphones, than with the over-the-ear headphones. When the noise reduction circuit was used with the over-the-ear headphones, the average PLL was even lower. On average, listeners had higher PLLs in street noise than in multi-talker babble and both of these were higher than the PLL for the quiet condition. The interaction between headphone style and environment was also significant. Details of individual contrasts are explored. Overall, PLLs were quite conservative, which would theoretically allow for extended permissible listening durations. Finally, we investigated the maximum output level of the MP3 player in the ear canals of authors 1 and 3 of this paper. Levels were highest with the earbud style, followed by the over-the-ear with noise reduction. The over-the-ear headphone without noise reduction had the lowest maximum output.

Conclusions: The majority of MP3 players are sold with the earbud style of headphones. Preferred listening levels are higher with this style of headphone compared to the over-the-ear style. Moreover, as the noise level in the environment increases, earbud users are even more susceptible to background noise and consequently increase the level of the music to overcome this. The result is an increased sound pressure level at the eardrum. However, the levels chosen by our subjects suggest that MP3 listening levels may not be as significant a concern as has been reported recently in the mainstream media.


Thank you!

That&rsquos not to say earbuds are always safe.

If you play music loudly enough, you can damage your hearing, Dobie says. But other common loud-noise exposures are much more likely to hurt your ears. &ldquoA lot more kids lose hearing from recreational shooting or hunting than from loud music,&rdquo he says, citing research linking firearms to hearing issues.

So how loud is too loud when it comes to your earbuds? That&rsquos trickier.

For one thing, some people have tough ears while others have tender ears, says M. Charles Liberman, a professor of otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. An earbud volume that might lead to hearing loss in your friend could be safe for you, based solely on individual differences.

But when you pull out your buds, if you hear ringing in your ears&mdashor the world around you sounds a little muffled&mdashthat&rsquos a sure sign that you need to turn down the volume. Even if your hearing quickly returns to normal, you may be doing lasting damage to your ears, Liberman says.

For the past few years, he and others have found evidence of a phenomenon known as &ldquohidden hearing loss.&rdquo It&rsquos called &ldquohidden&rdquo because it&rsquos not detectable by traditional methods.

Liberman describes the classic hearing tests that involve wearing headphones and listening for subtle beeps and tones in a silent environment. While accurate at detecting some forms of loss, those tests don&rsquot pick up on the kind of hearing issues that make it hard for a person to hear a friend&rsquos voice in a crowded restaurant.

&ldquoIt turns out that you can lose literally 80 to 90% of the nerve fibers in your ear, and it doesn&rsquot change your threshold detection,&rdquo he explains. In other words, you can severely impair your hearing and still do well on those classic hearing tests.

Basically, the way researchers have assessed hearing loss for decades is flawed, he says. Even if your hearing seems to go back to normal after exposure to something loud&mdashwhether it&rsquos a jackhammer, a gunshot or music&mdashlasting damage may have been done.

If you want to protect your hearing while wearing earbuds, Dobie says the situations that should worry you most are those when you&rsquore in a loud place&mdashon a commuter train, say, or in a crowded cafeteria&mdashand you turn up the volume to block out background noise.

Noise-cancelling headphones and earbuds may help shield your ears from a lot of that ambient noise&mdashand so allow you to listen at a lower volume. &ldquoBut then you have to be more aware of your surroundings if you&rsquore driving or walking,&rdquo Dobie says. (The rate of pedestrian deaths&mdashlikely caused by phone-based distraction&mdashhas surged since 2009, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.)

But assuming you&rsquore not blasting music every time you put in your earbuds, you probably don&rsquot have to worry about them ruining your hearing. &ldquoThere&rsquos been a lot of hysteria about this,&rdquo Dobie says of earbuds. &ldquoBut there&rsquos not much evidence that they offer any unique risks.&rdquo


Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Comments

We really should regulate our use of these auditory technologies not only headphones but also ear phones!

It’s very uniquely mentioned everything about the headphone and it’s excessive use. It’s use in present time is too much. Your article would help users to be more careful and apparently may save theirs ear from further damage. Thanks.

I’m surprised that an article on headphones has not touched on the topic “In ear” / “over ear” headphones.

The relationship between long usage of “in ear” headphones and infection is significant. Also in-ear volume could be much higher than the over-ear headphones.


Here is what he has to say.

How do earphones damage the ears?

When sound is transmitted in normal hearing, it converges on to the ear canal and then goes into the drum through the nerve for the perception of sound. When you have earphones on, the sound is concentrated directly on the eardrum and gets bombarded on it. The vibration of the drum moments triggers a weakness, as a result of which the hearing bones vibrate more and create more repel of waves and that’s when the ear starts to get affected.

How long should one wear headphones?

Prolonged usage of earphones should be avoided. More than 30 minutes is considered a long time. The longer you listen through the earphones, the higher your chance of damage. Over the ear is better than ear phones as the latter will cause more damage.

Use headphones on one ear for the first 30 minutes and move on to the other ear. This will give one ear some rest and allow the nerves to recuperate. While we aring over the ear headphones, keep the cuff on one side while keeping the other one open.

What happens if we use earphones for more than 30 minutes?

After half-an-hour, the constant sound being bombarded on the ears makes the nerve cells weak. Your perception of sound can get altered and you might start to miss out on words. Ensure that you’re changing the ear every half-an-hour or taking a break to avoid neural fatigue.

What are the potential health problems of prolonged usage of earphones?

Prolonged usage can lead to the widening of the ear canal. It can also interfere with the cleaning mechanism. This can further cause issues and other infections. Some of the other health problems you might experience include the following:

Headache: Wearing headphones for long periods of time on a regular basis can induce headaches.

Hearing Loss: Over time the loud noises from the headphones cause the hair cells in the cochlea (part of the inner ear) to bend down. The damage can be permanent in case they don’t get time to recover.

Tinnitus: Long-term exposure to loud noise may cause permanent damage. Symptoms of which include ringing, buzzing, hissing or whistling in the ear.

Dizziness: Earphones can cause a disturbance in the ear which can lead to vertigo.

Is there a direct impact of wearing headphones on the brain?

There are no direct effects of wearing headphones on the brain. However, the continuous usage of the phone can have some indirect effects including mood swings and irritability.

Wearing Bluetooth headphones is safer than having the phone directly to the ear as cell phones produce radio waves which can be more harmful to the brain.


What Kind of Damage Can Headphones Cause?

Loud noise, whether from external factors or your headphones, can cause both temporary and permanent hearing loss.

Temporary hearing loss: Temporary hearing loss usually happens after being exposed to loud noise for a long duration. With temporary hearing loss, hearing goes back to normal a few days after the exposure.

Permanent hearing loss: Permanent hearing loss is more severe than temporary hearing loss. It usually happens after being exposed to loud noise almost everyday. The person’s hearing will never be like it was before, which is why it is so important to protect your ears when it comes to outside work, construction or anything else that involves the use of loud equipment or noise in general.


What are the effects on hearing of in ear headphones? - Biology


Whether Beats, AirPods or Bose, the answer is simple—Yes. Using headphones and earbuds can absolutely cause damage to your hearing—the same goes for exposure to any loud noise.

When you subject your ears to loud noises, the fluid in the inner ear moves more and can lead to damaging the hair cells that send signals to the brain.

How loud is too loud?

Exposure to noise more than 85 decibels or more can lead to hearing loss. The Centers for Disease Control offers these examples:Headphones and earbuds pose a particular risk in that they sit very close the ear canal. This proximity actually causes a boosting effect, elevating sound by up to nine (9) decibels.

The CDC suggests that listening to music with your headphones at the highest volume ranges from 96 to 110 decibels.

Classic iPod earbuds at 100% volume on an iPhone can hit noise levels of 112 decibels, leading to hearing damage in minutes. The same earbuds at 60% volume measure approximately 80 decibels, making them safe to listen to for several hours.

How long is too long?

Noise exposure is cumulative, meaning the more often you expose yourself to loud sounds, the greater impact it will have on your hearing. Whether you are attending a concert, mowing the lawn, or running on the treadmill with earbuds in, it all adds up.

So in addition to paying careful attention to volume, another important consideration to prevent hearing damage is to limit exposure times. The longer you listen, the more likely you are to cause damage. So take a break. Remove headphones or earbuds frequently to give your ears a rest.

One guiding principle is the 60/60 rule — listen at 60% of the volume for just 60 minutes a day.

Check your phone settings

Most smartphones have limiters that let you change what constitutes “maximum” safe volume.

  • If you have an iPhone, head to Settings > Music > Volume Limit and set the slider to your desired level. This only affects the stock music app, unfortunately, so if you listen through another app like Spotify, you’re out of luck (unless that app has its own built-in limiter).
  • If you have an Android phone, check Settings > Sound > Volume to see if your particular device offers a limiter. Samsung phones, for example, have one hidden under this page’s three-dot menu. Other phones may not have a limiter built in, but you can download an app like Volume Lock that lets you set a range of safe levels.

Even if you are careful and take these precautions, consider having your hearing tested on a regular basis.

Schedule a Hearing Test

To learn about safe hearing practices and to have your hearing tested, schedule a consultation with one of our audiologists. Contact Oakdale ENT today.


How regular use of headphone, earphone affects health

Technology is developing very fast every day, leaving us all trapped in luxuries and comfort with hidden adverse effects on health. Headphones and earphones are one such technology being used mostly by the youth of today without knowing the health issues associated.

The side effects of using headphones and earphones are rising day by day. Today people using headphones and earphones everywhere, but it might turn out that such indulgence amounts to with one’s life.

Here are some side effects of headphones or earphone, especially when used excessively:

Hearing loss/hearing compications

When you use headphones or earphones, the direct audio goes into your ears. Volume exceeding 90 decibels can result in hearing complications and even hearing loss. People who wear earphones and headphones are at higher risk of hearing loss and even complications in hearing. If anyone listens at more than 100 decibels for even 15 minutes, he can face hearing loss. So, if you have to use earphones, be sure to give your ears some rest and do not listen to music at high volume at any cost.

Are your earphones or headphones personal? Do you share them with anyone? Well, we all once in a while share our earphones/headphones with friends and family. This sharing can easily result in ear infections. Bacteria from the ears of different people can easily travel through your headphones. So, next time you share your earphones or headphones, make sure you sterilise them, or stop sharing!

These days, the earphone and headphone companies make sure you get some really nice audio experience, but with decent audio experience comes with health risks. To get the best audio experience, we need to insert the earphones directly in the ear canals, which results in no air passage. Yes, the music sounds great but with no air passage you are at higher risk of ear infections.

In most cases, people who regularly use earphones and headphones experience more ear wax, which results in tinnitus, infection and even problems in hearing.

Recent studies have shown that people who use earphones or headphones most of the time in the day to hear loud music have felt numb ears. Their hearing abilities get numb for a while and then comes back to normal. This numbness of hearing can be dangerous and lead to deafness.

People using earphones and headphones usually complain of pain in the ears, some strange sound buzzing inside or ears or a sharp pain in a certain point of ear

The electromagnetic waves produced by earphones and headphone can cause serious dangers for your brain. However, no strong medical evidence has yet been found to prove it. But people who are daily users of Bluetooth, headphones and earphones have been found more prone to brain-related problems.

The inner ear is directly linked to the brain, even a little infection in the inner ear can directly affect the brain and can lead to serious health issues.

Recently, the number of accidents has increased with people using earphones or headphones involved. Car accidents, road accidents and even train accidents involving people using earphones have increased at an alarming rate. One cannot hear the honks or warnings, and thus becomes victim of some unfortunate accidents. But many a times, in order to save the lives of people using headphones or earphones, other people’s life comes in danger.


Headphones and Your Hearing


We are a society that loves headphones. We wear them on the street. We wear them at work. We wear them at home. We put them on our kids in the car. As we fill our lives with an increasing number of devices that play music, stream video, and facilitate communication we are spending more time with headphones firmly on our ears – and this may not be a good thing. “Everyone should be aware of their time using headphones, and limit it,” says Natalie Johnson, AuD, an audiologist with University of Utah Health Care. “Otherwise you could damage your hearing.”

There are two factors to consider when it comes to headphone use and hearing damage: volume and duration. Volume is the factor most people consider when they think about threats to their hearing. However, duration can do just as much damage. “Very loud sounds, such as a gunshot, can damage hearing instantaneously,” says Johnson. “But listening to your iPod at moderately loud levels for a long time can do just as much damage.” 

Part of the reason sound duration can cause problems is your ears never get a break. They are always “open” and receptive to sound. You may not even be aware that the sound stimulus is causing a problem. “For instance, adults who have to commute long distances get a hearing loss sooner than those who don't, because road noise is loud and over time can cause hearing damage,” says Johnson.  “You have to think of your total daily ‘noise’ intake, and try to give your ears a break.”

In regards to volume audiologists recommend that the sound should not go above 55 to 65 dBHL (decibels hearing level) to protect your hearing. That’s roughly the volume of a standard conversation. That can be hard to translate when it comes to the sound coming from earphones though.  Johnson has this tip: “If you can hear someone's music when you are seated more than approximately 3 feet away from them, it's probably too loud.” ​

The type of headphones you choose can also play a part in your risk factor. Earbuds, which sit closer to the eardrum, can cause more damage when sound is played loud. However, that doesn’t mean over the ear headphones are the answer – especially for parents picking out headphones for their kids. “It's typically easier for parents to hear "leaking" music from an earbud than from a tight headphone,” says Johnson. “So you may not know if your child is listening to something much louder via their headphone than earbud.”

Parents should also look for headphones with volume control when shopping for their kids. A recent study showed more than one third of the headphones marketed to kids did not limit volume as they claimed, so it is important to research before heading to the store. Parents can also limit volume on devices for extra protection. “There are features where parents can save the settings to not going above 65 dBHL, and then "lock" it as the loudest it can get,” says Johnson. “If a product doesn't give you the option to set the maximum volume, I simply wouldn't get it.” 

Beyond picking the right headphones and limiting volume on devices parents can protect their kids’ hearing – by protecting their own.  They can model good behavior by listening to music at appropriate levels and wearing earplugs when involved in noisy activities like snow blowing or mowing the lawn. “Be a good example for your children, and they will learn good listening habits,” says Johnson. “Teach your children their hearing is important and their ears should be protected.”


Health Issues Side Effects of using Headphones and Earphones

Technology is moving ahead day by day, leaving us all trapped in luxuries and comfort with hidden bad effects on Health. Headphones and Earphones are one such technology that is being used by the youth of today without knowing the health issues associated. I know this is today’s trend to use earphones and headphones, but do you know the hidden health issues that come with this small gadget? The side effects of using headphones and earphones are rising day by day.

You will find people using headphones and earphones everywhere, be it it metro’s, train’s Bus and even if they are walking. Not just are you playing with your health, but also with others. Don’t believe me?? Read more…..

Side Effects of Using Headphones and Earphones

Hearing loss/ Hearing complications

When you use headphones or earphones, the direct audio goes into your ears. Volume exceeding 90 decibels can result in hearing complication and even hear loss. All those who wear earphones and headphones are at higher risk of hearing loss and even complications in hearing. If anyone listens at more than 100 decibels for even 15 minutes, he can face hearing loss. So if you have to use headphone or earphones, make sure to give your ears some rest and do not listen listen music in high volume at any cost.

Ear Infections

Are your earphones or headphones your personal? Do you share them with anyone? Well, we all once in a while share our earphones and headphones with friends and family. This sharing can easily result in Ear infections. Bacteria from ears of different people can easily travel through your headphones. SO next time you share your earphones or headphones, make sure you sanitize them Or stop sharing!

No air passage

These days, the earphone and headphone companies make sure that you get some really nice audio experience. But with decent audio experience comes health risks. To get the best audio experience, we need to insert the earphones directly into ear canals which result in no air passage. Yes, the music sounds great but with no air passage, you are at higher risk of ear infections.

In most of cases, people who use regular earphones and headphones experience more ear wax which results in tinnitus, ear infection and even problems in hearing.

Numb Ears

Recent studies have shown that people who use earphones or headphones most of the time in the day to hear loud music has felt numb ears. Their hearing abilities get numb for a while and then comes back to normal. This numbness of hearing can be dangerous and lead to deafness.

Pain in Ears

People using earphones and headphone, usually complain of pain in the ears. Some strange sound buzzing inside or ears or a sharp pain in a certain point of ear

Bad effects on Brain

The Electromagnetic waves produced by earphones and headphone can cause serious dangers for your brain. However, no strong medical evidence has yet been found to prove it. But people who are daily users of Bluetooth, headphones and earphones have been found more prone to brain related problems.

The inner ear is directly linked to the brain, even a little infection in the inner ear can directly affect the brain and can lead to serious health issues.

Life Threatening Accidents

Recently, the number of accidents have increased with people using earphones or headphones were involved. Car accidents, Road Accidents and even train accidents involving people using headphones or earphones have increased with an alarming rate. One cannot hear the honks, and thus become victims of some unfortunate accidents. But many a times, in order to save the lives of people using headphones or earphones, Other people’s life comes in danger.

How to Save your ears and still use Earphones/Headphones

I am sure, after knowing all the bad effects and health hazards of using earphones and headphones, you must be scared, but still you don’t want to let your favourite audio gadget go. Here are some simple tips to save your ears and all the bad effects of using Headphones and earphones.


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