Recall the last time you were traveling through a busy public space. How many of the people there were wearing earbuds? If you began to count, you might be surprised how common these devices have become. Indeed, a 2015 study completed by the World Health Organization found that the use of earbuds had skyrocketed by 75 percent between the years of 1994 and 2005. Of course, many technological changes took place during these years, but few of them had such effects on sensory abilities. Earbuds are able to blast high volume sound into the eardrums unlike most devices of the past. Although over-the-ear headphones are also able to project such loud sounds, they are not as easily portable as earbuds that fit into a pocket or purse. These devices might seem harmless, but many experts attribute them with remarkably harmful effects to hearing, including among youth. Let’s consider some of the ways that earbuds may have damaged hearing for an entire generation, as well as the ways that you can protect yourself against that damage.
Earbuds and Hearing Loss
If earbuds were only used for a short time in a quiet context, the damage might be mitigated. However, one of the problems with these devices is that they are predisposed toward extended use in public places. Those who use earbuds are often engaged in listening contexts that can last for a long time, even hours. Take the example of a person engaged in online gaming. These sessions can last all night long, and earbuds can be projecting damaging sound into the ear canal for the entirety of that session. Those who listen to audio books or podcasts at work can have the same experience, spending the hours listening to loud voices. Not only does the duration of listening have a potential for damage, but the volume does, as well. Particularly among those who wear earbuds in noisy public spaces, the sound coming from the devices is added to the already loud environment. In the worst cases, some people wear earbuds on trains and in very noisy transportation environments. They may find themselves turning up the volume to a remarkably high level to drown out the sound of the train itself. In those cases, the additive volume can be incredibly damaging, even though the wearer is completely oblivious.
Preventing Hearing Loss with Earbuds
There are a few significant steps you can take to prevent hearing loss even while wearing earbuds. The two categories of prevention have to do with duration and volume. In the first place, it is important to limit the duration of use. Although you might feel inclined to wear your earbuds all day long, this amount of time is potentially the cause of irreversible damage to the ears. Limit your earbud use to short sessions. Perhaps you want to use your earbuds to watch a music video or to have a phone call with a “bud.” At the end of this session, go back to environmental sound. Although some are inclined to leave their buds in place for an extended time, the right move is to take them out. The other important consideration, of course, is the volume of use. Although devices are configured to reach a maximum volume, that level might be harmful to the ears, particularly when used for an extended duration or in conjunction with loud sound in the surrounding environment. If you are concerned that the volume might be too much, don’t hesitate to err on the side of caution. Most forms of hearing loss are irreversible, and you can’t be too cautious when it comes to a recreational source of potential damage.
If you feel that you might have incurred hearing loss from your earbuds or other devices, don’t hesitate to seek out a hearing test and consultation with a trained hearing professional. This expert can recommend the right limitations to your earbud use, as well as possibilities for treatment if you have incurred hearing loss already. Remarkably, there are devices available that combine treatment in the form of hearing aids, as well as syncing with devices through Bluetooth technology. Imagine if your hearing aids were able to double as earbuds to supply you with sound from your devices!