Headphones are a device that best exemplifies the modern human condition. Modern wireless headphones, AirPods, and earbuds permit you to link to a worldwide community of sounds while at the same time enabling you to isolate yourself from everyone around you. They let you watch Netflix or listen to music or stay in tune to the news from anywhere. They’re wonderful. But headphones may also be a health risk.
At least, as far as your hearing health is concerned. And the World Health Organization agrees. That’s especially worrying because headphones can be found everywhere.
Some Hazards With Earbuds or Headphones
Frances enjoys listening to Lizzo all the time. When she’s really getting into it she usually cranks up the volume (there’s a particular satisfaction in listening to your favorite track at max volume). Frances uses high-quality headphones so she won’t bother others with her loud music.
This type of headphone use is relatively common. Of course, headphones can be used for a lot of purposes but the general concept is the same.
We use headphones because we want a private listening experience (so we can listen to anything we want) and also so we don’t bother the people near us (usually). But this is where it can become dangerous: we’re subjecting our ears to a significant amount of noise in an extended and intense way. Hearing loss can be the result of the harm caused by this extended exposure. And a wide variety of other health conditions have been connected to hearing loss.
Protect Your Hearing
Healthcare professionals think of hearing health as an essential element of your all-around well-being. And that’s the reason why headphones present somewhat of a health hazard, especially since they tend to be omnipresent (headphones are really easy to get a hold of).
So here is the question, then, what can you do about it? Researchers have offered a few concrete measures we can all use to help make headphones a little safer:
- Volume warnings are important: It’s likely that you listen to your tunes on your mobile device, and most mobile devices have built-in warnings when you start cranking up the volume a bit too much. It’s very important for your ear health to adhere to these cautions as much as possible.
- Age restrictions: Headphones are being used by younger and younger people nowadays. And it’s likely a wise move to reduce the amount of time younger people are spending with headphones. The longer we can prevent the damage, the more time you’ll have before hearing loss sets in.
- Don’t turn them up so loud: The World Health Organization recommends that your headphones not go over a volume of 85dB (60dB is the common volume of a conversation for context). Most mobile devices, unfortunately, don’t have a dB volume meter standard. Try to be sure that your volume is lower than half or look up the output of your particular headphones.
- Take breaks: When you’re jamming out to music you really enjoy, it’s hard not to crank it up. That’s understandable. But your hearing needs a little time to recuperate. So every now and then, give yourself at least a five minute rest. The concept is to give your ears some time with lower volumes each day. In the same way, monitoring (and limiting) your headphone-wearing time can help keep higher volumes from injuring your ears.
If you’re at all concerned about your ear health, you may want to reduce the amount of time you spend using your headphones altogether.
I Don’t Actually Need to Worry About my Hearing, Right?
You only have one set of ears so you shouldn’t dismiss the impact of hearing damage. But several other health factors, including your mental health, can be impacted by hearing issues. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to increases in the chances of issues like depression and dementia.
So your total wellness is forever connected to the health of your hearing. Whether you’re listening to a podcast or your favorite music, your headphone might become a health risk. So turn down the volume a little and do yourself a favor.