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Can You Hear Me Now? You Can Suffer Hearing Loss from Headphones

Hearing Loss from Headphones

Although everyone assumes headphones prevent hearing loss, did you know you can suffer hearing loss from headphones? Most of our patients are surprised to learn there is a strong connection between hearing loss and wearing headphones. Let's dig a little deeper to understand how headphones can cause hearing loss.

Can You Suffer Hearing Loss from Headphones?

Listening to music or audio tapes with headphones and earbuds has been trending for years from the time it was introduced into the American culture. Not to mention, these gadgets can make you look really "hip" or cool. Kids, teenagers, young adults, and older folks are seen sporting headphones in all colors, sizes, and designs.

However, there are concerns surrounding the safety of headphone use and their effect on ear health. Hearing loss has been linked to long-term use of headphones, particularly when these gadgets are consistently used in a manner that increases the risk of hearing loss, e.g., blasting music on high volumes.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Hearing loss or impairment is described as a total or partial inability to hear sounds either temporarily or permanently. Hearing impairment is typically associated with aging and is more common in older adults. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), there is also noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) or sensory hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise. NIHL can affect one ear or both ears and can be temporary or permanent. It can also affect individuals of all ages including children.

How Does Wearing Headphones Lead to Hearing Loss?

Repeated exposure to sounds above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the less time it takes for NIHL to happen. The closer you are to the sound also determines the rate at which hearing loss will occur.

Recreational activities such as listening to MP3 players, smartphones, or iPods at a high volume through headphones or earbuds places you at risk of NIHL. At the maximum volume, an MP3 player delivers 105 decibels. So the risk of NIHL increases with headphones pumping high-level sounds directly into the ear, especially on a long-term basis.

However, even brief exposure to an intense “impulse” sound can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), NIHL happens when the loud sounds damage sensitive parts such as tiny hair cells in the inner ear.

Because sensory hearing loss is typically gradual, the damage may not be presently noticeable but you can still have trouble in the future hearing or understanding what others are saying. The hearing loss can become severe when combined with aging requiring you to wear hearing aids to help you hear properly and communicate more effectively.

Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss

When it comes to listening to sounds via headphones, a rule of thumb is the volume is too high if someone standing near you can hear the sounds through your headphones. Here are some signs that may indicate sensory hearing loss:

  • Speaking louder so others can hear
  • Sounds or speech sounds dull or muffled
  • Trouble making out certain words, especially in noisy environments
  • Having to draw closer to hear better
  • Asking others to repeat or speak slowly
  • Having to turn the radio or television volume up or down

Tips to Prevent Hearing Loss from Headphone Use

Repeated exposure to loud sound or music via your headphones or earbuds may result in hearing loss. This is the case whether you're blasting music in your ear to relax or to drown out surrounding noises or distractions.

Fortunately, the NIDCD reports NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that can be completely prevented. But it will take more than simply regulating the volume on your headphones or earbuds. Here are some tips to help you protect your hearing:

  • Turn the volume down below 85 decibels
  • Keep the volume level below the halfway point
  • Set the volume limiter on your device
  • Use noise reducing or noise cancellation headphones
  • Reduce the length of time spent using headphones
  • Do a hearing test or hearing screening regularly

Contact North Shore Hearing P.C. for a Free Hearing Screening

Turn the volume down on sounds and preserve your hearing for a lifetime! Remember that noise-induced hearing loss is usually gradual and may go unnoticed until the condition gets worse.

Don't wait to get your hearing checked even if you're not experiencing signs of hearing loss. At North Shore Hearing, we offer free hearing screening and free hearing aids consultation. Call us today to set up an appointment.

Diane Faulknor, MA, CCC/A

After 18 years of experience in the field of audiology and hearing aid dispensing, I felt it was time to start my own practice which has led to the creation of North Shore Hearing, P.C. I take pride in the care I provide for my patients as hearing is not just a medical issues we need to deal with, but also the social and lifestyle ramifications that people with poor hearing live with on a day-to-day basis. Based on not only your hearing loss, but also the type of lifestyle you lead, we'll work together to fit you with the most appropriate hearing aid available in today's marketplace.