With the increasing interconnection of our society and culture through technology, the use of headphones has increased. With headphones, people can enjoy music and talk anytime, anywhere. The ease of use of the headphones and the mobility they offer cannot be overstated. This is especially true now that our society spends more time on virtual meetings and headphones during the COVID 19 pandemic. Despite the convenience of headphones and the increased benefits Questions about security of use were raised. There is something like healthy headphone use; You just need to know how safe the sound level is and when to take a break from your headphones.
How does sound cause hearing loss?
Shouldn’t clay be a tool for communication and awareness of our environment? Yes, sound is an essential form of communication that also orientates us towards our environment. However, the inner ear is very sensitive to the sound balance it perceives. There are thousands of cells in the ears, some of which have small hair-like structures called hair cells, which are responsible for transmitting sound from the ears back to the brain, where it is processed. Excessive sound can permanently damage these cells, disrupting the sound transmission mechanism. Damage can also occur through the connection between hair cells and nerve cells, which can be interrupted by excessive sound, even if the hair cells remain normal. In short, one thing is clear: too loud a sound is harmful.
How loud is too loud?
The CDC contains detailed information on various daily experiences and the associated volume or decibel level (dB). One of the most important things to consider when using headphones is that personal hearing aids are set to a maximum volume of around 105 to 110 dB. As a reference, exposure to sound levels above 85 dB (equivalent to a lawn mower or leaf blower) can cause ear damage if exposed for more than two hours, while exposure to sound levels of 105 to 110 dB in five minutes can result in damage. With noise below 70 dB, the ears are unlikely to be significantly damaged. This is important to know because the maximum volume of personal hearing aids is above the threshold at which damage occurs (both in children and adults)! It is important that you, the listener, know that most devices can actually be used in a harmful way. Ultimately, personal hearing aids should be comfortable for the listener.
How long is too long?
In addition to the volume, the duration of the sound exposure is an important factor that contributes to possible ear damage. Put simply, louder noises can do more damage with less exposure. The OSHA requires that employers offer hearing protection for workers with an average exposure of 85 dB for more than eight hours. While this may sound like a long time, using headphones at only slightly higher sound levels can result in damage in less than an hour, and it’s easy to imagine listening to music with headphones for an hour or more. It is important that listening at a comfortable level is indefinitely safe, although it is important to balance the duration of use with the volume of the exposure.
Suggestions for safe listening
Our ears can be damaged by excessive sound, and the combination of excessive sound level and exposure duration contributes to potential hearing problems. Here are some suggestions for healthy listening habits.
- Notice how long you’ve been listening and how loud the sound is.
- Take breaks after long listening sessions and make sure you hear at a comfortable level.
- Be prepared. If you are attending an event that is likely to produce prolonged loud noises (e.g. at concerts or sporting events), bring earplugs or headphones. There are a number of devices that offer protection from potentially harmful situations, from simple foam earphones to noise canceling headphones to customizable eartips made by an audiologist.
- Do not hesitate to speak to an audiologist or otolaryngologist about questions about using headphones or about safe sound levels. Hearing health is important and complex. We can help protect your ears while using headphones.
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