Headphones are a device that best reflects the modern human condition. Modern wireless headphones, AirPods, and earbuds allow you to link to a worldwide community of sounds while at the same time giving you the ability to separate yourself from everybody around you. You can keep up with the news, watch Netflix, or listen to music anywhere you find yourself. They’re incredible. But the way we generally use them can also be a health risk.
This is specifically true with regards to your hearing health. And this is something that the World Health Organization has also acknowledged. Headphones are everywhere so this is especially troubling.
The Danger of Headphones And Earbuds
Frances loves to listen to Lizzo all the time. When she’s really jamming out she usually cranks up the volume (the majority of people love to jam out to their favorite music at full power). She’s a respectful person, though, so Frances uses high-quality headphones to listen to her tunes.
This is a pretty normal use of headphones. Needless to say, headphones can be used for a lot of purposes but the overall concept is the same.
We use headphones because we want the listening experience to be somewhat private (so we are able to listen to anything we want) and also so we’re not bothering the people around us (usually). But this is where it can get dangerous: our ears are exposed to an intense and prolonged amount of noise. Hearing loss can be the consequence of the injury caused by this extended exposure. And hearing loss has been associated with a wide range of other health-related conditions.
Keep Your Hearing Safe
Healthcare professionals consider hearing health to be an essential element of your general wellness. And that’s why headphones present something of a health hazard, especially since they tend to be everywhere (headphones are rather easy to get your hands on).
The question is, then, what can be done about it? Researchers have provided numerous tangible measures we can all take to help make headphones a little safer:
- Don’t turn them up so loud: 85dB is the highest volume that you should listen to your headphones at according to the World Health organization (60dB is the common level of a conversation to put it in context). Regrettably, most mobile devices don’t measure their output in decibels. Determine the max volume of your headphones or keep the volume at no more than half.
- Heed to volume warnings: Most mobile devices have warnings when the volume becomes dangerous. So if you use one to listen to music, you need to pay attention to these warnings.
- Take breaks: When you’re listening to music you really like, it’s hard not to crank it up. Most people can relate to that. But your ears need a bit of time to recuperate. So every now and then, give yourself at least a five minute rest. The strategy is, every day give your ears some low volume time. By the same token, monitoring (and limiting) your headphone-wearing time will help keep moderate volumes from hurting your ears.
- Age restrictions: Headphones are being worn by younger and younger people nowadays. And it may be smarter if we cut back on that a little, limiting the amount of time younger children spend wearing headphones. Hearing loss won’t set in as soon if you can avoid some damage when you’re younger.
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.
It’s Just My Hearing, Right?
You only get one pair of ears so you shouldn’t disregard the impact of hearing damage. But your hearing can have a substantial impact on several other health factors, including your overall mental health. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to increases in the risk for issues like dementia and depression.
So your total well-being is forever connected to the health of your ears. And that means your headphones may be a health hazard, whether you’re listening to music or a baking podcast. So the volume down a little and do yourself a favor.