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Does The Headphones Damage Your Hearing Irreversibly?

Dr. J. K.Gupta 87% (52 ratings)
MS ENT, MBBS
ENT Specialist, Noida  •  16 years experience
Does The Headphones Damage Your Hearing Irreversibly?

Did you know your earphones are making you deaf? Here's how.

Fact: Roughly 1.1 billion people worldwide within the age group of 12-35 have been found to be at an increased risk of developing hearing problems.

Listening to loud music on handheld devices using earphones has become a common trend among youngsters these days. You might find it very relaxing to plug in your earphones and escape into your own world of music, but you need to know that this can cause serious damage to your ears. The worst part: you won't realise your ears are being damaged until it's too late.

So, exactly how is loud music damaging your ears?

Continuous exposure to loud music from earphones or other sources results in a medical condition known as Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), which can be associated with irreversible damage to the ears resulting in deafness.

When you hear loud music for a considerable amount of time every day it affects your hair cells (nerve cells responsible for sending sound signals to the brain) negatively, so that their ability to respond to sound decreases. If this keeps on happening for many months, eventually the hair cells are damaged beyond repair. These cells cannot be regenerated, making you permanently deaf.

How loud is too loud?

If your ears are exposed to sounds at 95, 100, 105, 110 and 115 dB (decibel, the unit used for measuring sound) for 4 hours, 2 hours, 1 hour, 30 minutes and 15 minutes each day respectively, your ears are at risk of getting severely damaged. Also, playing music at 120 dB or above can damage your ears instantly. You can have a realistic idea about the relation between decibels and sounds you commonly hear by referring to this list:

  1. 30 dB: soft whisper
  2. 75 dB: busy traffic
  3. 90 dB: noise of a motorcycle at 25 feet
  4. 100 dB: noise of a farm tractor
  5. 140 dB: jet plane taking off

Moreover, if you experience the following symptoms regularly, there's a high chance that you need to get your ears treated soon:

  1. A ringing sound in your ears when you are at a quiet place, which vanishes after a few minutes
  2. You need to raise the volume of TV or music to the fullest to hear it properly
  3. You have difficulty in hearing people talking at a distance of just 3 feet

Tips For Safer Listening

  1. Use earplugs: The louder the noise and the longer you're exposed to it, the greater the chance of damaging your hearing. Protect your ears with ear protectors – earplugs or earmuffs – and get away from the noise as quickly or as often as you can. 
  2. Turn down the music: Don't listen to your personal music player at very high volumes and never to drown out background noise. If the music is uncomfortable for you to listen to, or you can’t hear external sounds when you’ve got your headphones on, then it's too loud. It's also too loud if the person next to you can hear the music from your headphones.
  3. Use the 60:60 rule: To enjoy music from your MP3 player safely, listen to your music at 60% of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes a day. 
  4. Wear headphones: When listening to your personal music player, choose noise-cancelling headphones, or go retro with older muff-type headphones. Ear-bud style headphones and in-the-ear headphones are less effective at drowning out background noise. 
  5. Turn down the dial: Turn down the volume on your TV, radio or hi-fi a notch. Even a small reduction in volume can make a big difference to the risk of damage to your hearing. 
  6. Use earplugs when you’re listening to live music: They can reduce average sound levels by between 15 and 35 decibels. They’re widely available at many live music venues and shouldn’t spoil your enjoyment of the music.
  7. Don't put up with work noise: If you’re experiencing noise at work, talk to your human resources (HR) department or your manager and ask for advice on reducing the noise and getting hearing protection.
  8. Wear ear protectors: Wear ear protectors (earplugs or earmuffs) if you are using noisy equipment such as power drills, saws, sanders or lawn mowers.
  9. Be careful in the car: Listening to music in a confined space increases the risk of hearing damage. Don’t listen to music too loud for too long.
  10. Have a hearing detox: Give your ears time to recover after they’ve been exposed to loud noise. According to Action on Hearing Loss, you need at least 16 hours of rest for your ears to recover after spending around two hours in 100dB sound, for example in a club. Reducing this recovery time increases the risk of permanent deafness. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
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