Portable music players and smartphones have both become popular methods of listening to music during the past few decades. As a result, it’s now normal to see people going about their day while wearing headphones or earbuds. This convenient method of accessing entertainment, however, has a dark side. Our favorite headphones are often hard on the ears - and have even been linked to hearing loss.
Fast Facts on Music and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
It’s important to remember that hearing loss is often caused by environmental exposure to loud noises. High-volume sounds always have the potential to be harmful, even when heard for a brief period of time. This is because both short- and long-term noise exposure can damage sensitive structures in the inner ear, causing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). As a result, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the second most common form of acquired hearing impairment, following age-related hearing loss.
Unfortunately, temporary and permanent hearing impairments are now becoming more common among the population, thanks in part to a growing use of portable entertainment devices. In fact, music is such a common source of NIHL that this specific type of hearing deficiency is sometimes referred to as music-induced hearing loss. And while the problem can affect anyone of any age, adolescents in particular are likely to suffer from it - leading to hearing impairments at a very early age.
Preventing Music-Induced Hearing Loss
To prevent music-induced hearing loss, it’s best to address its primary source: headphones. Modern day headphones and earbuds are both significant contributors to this type of hearing loss. This is due to a couple of key factors:
- Both listening tools “funnel” sounds directly into the ear; when normally, the “live” sounds we’re exposed to may sometimes have a chance to lose some of their damaging impact as the soundwaves travel to us.
- Unless specifically designed to do so, earbuds and headphones fail to block outside sounds. As a result, listeners often crank up their tunes in an effort to hear their favorite songs over this background noise. But doing this, even for 15 minutes per day, may cause long-term hearing damage (based on the volumes being reached).
The good news is that you don’t have to give up your listening devices to protect your hearing. Instead, you can use your devices in a more hearing-friendly way by:
- Decreasing the amount of time you use headphones and/or earbuds.
- Turning down your device’s volume levels.
- Never raising the volume past the halfway level on your devices.
- If possible, adjusting the settings on your device(s) so that it’s impossible to ever elevate the volume above the halfway level.
Remember: in addition to utilizing these tips yourself, always recommend them (or enforce them via usage rules) to your children and grandchildren, too! Younger individuals in particular need to learn how to properly use their devices and to protect their hearing for years to come.
Is it Time to Visit an Audiologist?
Hearing loss prevention is an important part of ear care. But it’s not the only part. In addition to adjusting your listening habits, you should also visit with your ear doctor promptly and regularly for hearing tests and care. In addition to adhering to regular testing recommendations (per your doctor’s advice), you should also visit an audiologist if:
- You have ringing in your ears or your hearing is muffled for more than 24 hours after exposure to loud music.
- Other people's voices sound mumbled or slurred.
- You need to turn the television or radio up or down more and more just to hear it.
- You notice it's easier to hear some pitches than others.
Are you due to visit an audiologist? Are you concerned about your hearing? We can help either way.
Francis Audiology Associates is Wexford-based, independent, community-oriented practice that offers a full range of diagnostic and rehabilitative audiological services. Situated just north of the Pittsburgh area, we are easy to access. Most importantly, we can help you come up with a plan to care for your ears and prevent future hearing loss, as well as provide cleaning services and hearing tests to fully evaluate your hearing and health. To schedule a visit with our team, contact us via phone or request an appointment online.