Senior woman listening on headphones wondering if do earbuds cause hearing loss.

Do Headphones and Earbuds Cause Hearing Loss?

May 19, 2022

Whether you’re walking on a busy street, waiting in line at the grocery store, or studying in the library, it seems like everyone is wearing headphones or earbuds. Although they can transport us to another place and romanticize whatever mundane task we are performing, they can also cause irreversible hearing damage if we have our audio too loud. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 50% of adults between the ages of 12 and 35 are at risk of developing hearing loss due to loud audio music in headphones.

The Effect of Headphones and Earbuds on Hearing

Unfortunately, we can’t pretend we are at a rock concert every time we go to the grocery store. It is also not necessarily our fault that audio becomes too loud. The devices we listen on often allow users to turn up the volume to unsafe levels. On average, earbuds connected to a smartphone can reach audio levels of up to 120 decibels—which is the equivalent of a chainsaw in your ear. 

Of course, that is going to cause irreparable damage to your hearing. Keep reading to learn some helpful tips to reduce audio in earbuds and how you can protect yourself from irreversible damage.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

A lot of people are surprised to hear that most hearing loss is caused by damage rather than aging. Hearing loss caused by loud noises and sound—Noise-Induced Hearing Loss—is one of the most common types of hearing loss, but it’s also generally preventable.

According to health experts, the recommended noise limit is about 85 decibels—the noise you would hear on a busy street. However, with the dawn of earbuds and headphones—especially those featuring wireless technology—people are using these accessories to block out unwanted noise with more noise. 

If you’re on a street, you might turn up your music to drown out the noise around you. Not only does this make you unaware of your surroundings, it also causes hearing damage. It is estimated that once young people (Millennials and GenZ) reach their 50s, they will have the hearing ability of 80-year-olds today. This is an alarming statistic, especially given that this type of hearing loss can be prevented.

Safe Listening Habits

Limit Your Audio Level

Although most listening devices allow users to turn up the volume to unsafe levels, there are controls users can manually activate to limit audio levels. For example, on IOS devices you can control audio levels in the settings tab. In addition, IOS users can monitor their earbuds audio level in the health app. 

Take Listening Breaks

Another good strategy is to take listening breaks throughout the day. According to health experts, continuous listening on earbuds causes hearing damages. Therefore, they recommend the “60/60 rule” – 60 minutes of listening with 60 minutes off right after. That way, your ears get a rest from continuous audio at high decibels.

Use Headphones Instead of Earbuds

Headphones are a less invasive listening option that gives space between the audio and the eardrum. They are also better at noise-canceling which is great for focus. In addition, one may not feel the urge to turn up the volume to block outside noise.

Invest in Noise Cancellation

If you find headphones to be too bulky, another option is to invest in noise-canceling earbuds. Today, there are many popular earbuds on the market that feature noise-cancellation technology. This provides the same benefits as noise-canceling headphones but in a more portable package. Although these earbuds do allow you to turn up the volume, you may be less inclined to do so because of the great sound quality and noise cancellation.

How Lexie Hearing Can Help

Earbuds are an intrinsic part of modern life. However, there is an undeniable connection between earbuds and hearing loss. If one doesn’t monitor their audio levels, over time they can develop permanent hearing loss.

If you are concerned about hearing loss or suspect you may already suffer from it, Lexie Hearing offers a free online hearing test. Lexie Hearing’s online hearing test assesses whether users can hear the conversation in a loud area with background noise. After taking the short test (less than 10 min) you will receive results immediately. 

In addition, if you are found to suffer from hearing loss Lexie Hearing can connect you to products and resources. Contact a Lexie Hearing Expert today for more information.

Image of post writer Marcellé Swanepoel.

Written by Marcellé Swanepoel

B. Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology


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