Headphones are an extremely popular item to be paired with the numerous devices we use on a daily basis. Whether they be used for exercise, commuting, or just listening to your favourite music, podcasts, or shows, they tend to get a lot of play in daily routines. We often associate noise-related hearing loss with people that have spent years working in a noisy environment. However, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can occur at any age with fairly limited exposure to loud sounds.
What is NIHL (Noise-Induced Hearing Loss)?
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss occurs when the auditory hair cells in the inner ear become damaged. These hair cells are responsible for receiving sounds from our environment and transforming them into electrical signals that can be identified by the brain. Only a finite number of these hair cells are created at birth, and once they are destroyed or damaged, the result is permanent. Precautionary measures should be taken to prevent damage to these hair cells to keep hearing functioning at an optimal level.
One of the most common ways people are frequently exposed to high sound levels is through the use of headphones.
NIHL Quick Facts
- NIHL is on the rise
- Can cause permanent damage to inner ear hair cells
- Can result in hearing loss which impacts the ability to carry out daily routines and functions
- Generally makes it more difficult to hear high-frequency sounds
- Often results in hearing loss in both ears
- More difficult to distinguish consonant sounds like sh, s, f, th
- May seem like people are mumbling
- Can lead to tinnitus and other health issues
Safety Tips for Listening to Headphones
There are several practices that can be employed to ensure you are listening to headphones at safe levels.
- Watch your volume
- Avoid earbuds
- Try noise-canceling headphones
- Limit your listening time
- Customize maximum volume
Watch Your Volume
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that listening to headphones at high volumes is a high-risk habit when it comes to your hearing. It can be very tempting to turn your favourite song up to increase your listening pleasure. However, it can take only 15 minutes listening to earbuds at 100 dB to cause permanent hearing damage.
Safe Sound Levels
When it comes to headphone volume, it is recommended to follow the 60/60 rule. That means listening to headphones at 60% or less of max volume for no longer than 60 minutes.
Earbuds are a cost-effective, easily portable, and convenient option for listening, but they are at higher risk than regular headphones for hearing loss. Over-the-ear headphones provide a bit of a buffer between the speakers and the inner ear. Earbuds don’t offer that sound cushion and are likely to cause more damage when played at high volumes.
Although they typically cost a bit more, your ears will thank you for choosing noise-canceling headphones. Since this type of headphone actively blocks out ambient sounds in your environment, lower volume is required for crisp and clear listening.
Limit Your Listening Time
As previously mentioned, it is advisable to listen to headphones in no greater than 60-minute intervals. If you are on a long trip or working on an extensive task, it is a good idea to take breaks between listening sessions.
Customize Max Volume
Another useful tip to prevent exposure to excessive volume is to customize the maximum volume on your device. Options to adjust max volume can typically be found in the Settings section of your device.
Useful advice in general to consider is to avoid sounds that are too loud, long-lasting, and in close proximity.