Reading is less critical in today’s media environment than listening. People have been getting news from TV and radio for decades, but this was primarily heard through speakers. Even though there has been a steady rise in video and audio news and media over the past 100 years, we are still looking for safe ways to use these technologies in our lives.
When audio is played through speakers, everyone in the area hears it. Because of this, people tend to keep the volume at a reasonable level. But when we project sound directly into the ear canal, we can play harmful sound levels without anyone knowing.
With this information in mind, we can take steps to protect ourselves and the people we care about. Let’s look at some ways that earbuds can hurt your hearing.
Earbuds and hearing loss
Hearing loss is more common among young people than older people. When researchers ask young people how they listen to music, they find that they are more likely to wear headphones and earbuds for long periods.
Streaming technology has also changed how we use headphones and earbuds. In the past, if you wanted to listen to music on a trip, you had to bring a bunch of tapes or CDs with you. Now, with streaming media, you can listen for longer than ever.
Earbuds are not only worn for longer than we might think but they are also turned up louder than we might think. On many things, the loudest setting can be above 100 decibels. At that volume, hearing damage can happen in just a few minutes. If you are listening in a quiet place, listening for more than a minute or two at that volume might be uncomfortable.
But when we use earbuds to drown out background noise, the loud volumes they put out can damage our hearing. Take a trip to work on a noisy train as an example. We might want to put in our earbuds instead of listening to the loud noise of a subway car. Even though these things might block out some background noise, they don’t protect our ears as earplugs would. Instead, earbuds are loud enough to compete with and add to the noise around them.
Using earbuds while working in the yard is another thing that could be dangerous. With the sound of a lawn mower, weed whacker, snow blower, or leaf blower in the background, our earbuds only make it louder.
Keeping damage at bay
What can you do to ensure that wearing earbuds doesn’t hurt you?
First, make sure you don’t wear them when there is a lot of noise around you. If a place is already loud, don’t make it even louder by putting in your earbuds. If you want to listen in these places, you might want to look for a pair of over-the-ear headphones that block out noise. These devices muffle the environment’s sound and play a tone that cancels out the sound of background noise.
When you wear earbuds, you should limit the volume and the length of time you use them. A good rule of thumb is to keep your device’s volume at or below 60 percent of its highest level. Also, pay attention to the mix of volume and length. Even sounds that aren’t too loud can be harmful if you listen to them for hours on end, which is possible with streaming technology.
Lastly, keep an eye on the young people in your life. Even though you might know when the volume is too high on your own, kids might try to push the limits if they are allowed to. Setting limits for the young people in your life can help them keep their hearing ability well into adulthood and old age, so don’t be afraid to talk to them about their hearing health, too.