You’re Probably Damaging your Ears, Stop It now!

Look around the city and you’ll notice the headphones. Everyone wears them, usually for hours at a time. And all our moms warn us, not to listen to our headphones too loudly. But how bad is it really for us to listen all day? How much do I really need to worry about my ears? So of course, our moms are right, it turns out loud music damages your hearing but you likely won’t notice any tangible effects until its too late.


In fact, any persistent noise affects your ears.- Can headphones cause hearing loss?Absolutely.- That’s Dr. Samantha Anne, an ENT who specializes in pediatric care so if you’re blasting music or even podcasts all day long, you’re going to be putting your ears at risk.And you can’t fix hearing loss.- Once you lose to hearing loss because of noise exposure, there’s no going back.You don’t repair it, there’s no getting it back.- I called Dr. John Oghalai, an ENT and chair at USC to learn more about how we’re all ruining our hearing.- So you can damage the sensory hair cells in the inner error you can damage the nerves.The nerve that carries the sound from the hair cell to the brain.You know if you listen to sounds that are too loud, then they die and as far as we know, they don’t regenerate.

You also probably won’t even know you’re damaging your hearing because it often happens slowly and subtly. Doctors often suggest a hearing test to establish a baseline but I’m sure you haven’t had a recent hearing test, I definitely haven’t. The only real obvious sign of damage is once you have ringing in your ears, aka, tinnitus. That’s not good because that means your hearing has been significantly damaged. Plus ringing is obviously super annoying. Alright, so we’re killing our baby ear hairs and maybe damaging our nerve endings, fantastic. But is all sound bad for us? That can’t be possible, right?

If you’re listening to a really loud sound, the time you can listen to is less or if it’s a medium level sound, then you can listen to it much longer.- He and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have some concrete decibel recommendations. If you listen to something at 85 decibels, for example, you can safely do so for eight hours. This is like hearing garbage disposal, blender or dishwasher for eight hours, it’s not so bad. At 95 decibels, you only get four safe hours of listening. That’s slightly louder than a motorcycle that’s 25 feet away. Imagine that for four hours, it’s brutal. You want to almost never hear a chainsaw which can top out at 120 decibels.

Now I recognize that most of us don’t think in decibel levels. I’m impressed if you do but if you’re curious, apps do exist to measure your decibel level outputs, although, there are other ways to measure your decibel outputs that are more abstract.- General guidelines keep it at a comfortable level. Should not be heard around you. And then if you take it off and you’re hearing ringing or the sound is a little bit muffled, like when you come out of a huge concert, for example, and you have that little bit of ringing and muffled the sound for a while, that’s actually damaging to the hearing.- Of course, our headphones can effect this problem too.

Noise isolation, which is when our headphones block out ambient sound because of the seal they create can help reduce the need for louder music. Noise cancellation, which electronically counteracts outside noise can help too. The two taken together might make a big difference.

Noise isolation

When used properly, to lower the levels of decibels that you’re playing, noise-canceling headphones are not a bad thing, they could be helpful.- Doctor Oghalai says regular old earbuds might be the worst as does Dr. Anne.- The type of earbuds that kind of sit in the bowl of your ear that you can still hear outside sounds are probably in my mind, some of the worst ones you could have.- Both agree that noise cancellation can help, although, if you’re using noise cancellations an excuse to tune everything out and then turn up your music, don’t do that. That’s is really bad.

Okay, so I wanted to see how loudly I listened to music. So we went out into the world to see how loud New York City truly is. We used a sound level meter to detect the outside volume level and then looked at how I adjusted my volume on my iPhone in turn. We tested one over the ear pair, one noise canceling, one noise isolating, Airports, noise canceling earbuds and on-ear headphones. The subway was super loud whenever trains were present and sometimes even reached up to 100 decibels but it wasn’t too bad when there were no trains in the station.

The outside city was about as loud as when there were no subways in the stations but sometimes it did get a little bit louder, like when an ambulance drove by. And the office was always more or less silent. Obviously, this all affected how loudly I needed to turn up my music. But all the headphones stuck to a clear pattern of use, regardless of where I was. I had to turn my regular, over the ear headphones up to the highest as well as my Airports. The noise isolating headphones and noise canceling headphones really did a good job keeping external sounds out which led me to keep the volume lower than I had to with other pairs. But even with these noise canceling and noise isolating headphones, the subway station volume was nearly double that of the office.

This all makes sense but as the doctors warned, we could easily overdo it with volume, especially when the headphones are able to keep sounds out. All we can do to take care of our ears is be mindful. Maybe give up on your vanity and wear earplugs at concerts because you never, ever want to hear that ringing. If you’re a parent, you can often set volume controls for your kids so they won’t exceed a certain decibel level.

It’s okay to use the headphones but just be smart about it, be sensible.- Dr. Oghalai thinks the future might actually be bright when it comes to hearing loss. Better headphone technology could reduce the amount of damage we do.- Its actually gonna get better over our lifetimes because I think headphones have gotten better.

If he has hope, so do I. Hey, do you have anything you’ve been wondering about related to tech and myths maybe? Leave them in the comments below because we’re always looking for ideas.