From teenagers and adolescents to working adults, everyone is using either earbuds or earpods these days. These options are like tiny speakers that fit inside the ears, and while they are convenient and useful, there are some concerns when it comes to your ears and your hearing.
May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, and it’s the perfect time to address this topic, especially since kids are getting out of school for the summer. They will be looking for ways to keep themselves entertained, and they may be using these products more often.
Dangers of Earbuds & Earpods
The dangers with these products revolve primarily around listening to music that’s too loud and doing so for too long.
These are the two main concerns:
This is an ear infection in the ear canal, commonly called “swimmers ear,” and the condition can be caused by repeated, frequent use of in-ear headphones. Options that seal off the ear to eliminate airflow are especially concerning as these can increase the risk of otitis externa. It can be a very painful infection that may require medical treatment.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Sounds at 78 to 132 decibels (dB) have the potential to cause damage to the delicate hair cells that respond to the sounds we hear. This damage can show up as tinnitus (ringing) and/or hearing loss (difficulty hearing and understanding what is said). The louder the sound, the less time it takes to damage your hearing.
Earpods can reach levels of 102 to 112 dB. At levels that high, damage to your hearing can occur in as much as 30 minutes to as little as 2 minutes. As many as one in five teenagers already have noise induced hearing loss from exposure to loud sounds. This is 30% higher than 20 years ago.
Signs that what you’re listening to is too loud:
- You must raise your voice to be heard
- You can’t hear or understand someone that’s three feet away
- Speech around you sounds muffled or dull after you leave the noisy area
- You have pain or ringing in your ears after you hear the noise (tinnitus) that lasts for a few minutes or a few days
How to Protect Hearing When Using Earbuds or Earpods
During the month of May and throughout the summer, be sure that what you are listening to and what your children are listening to is not too loud. For kids especially, the time they spend each day using earbuds or earpods should be limited.
Here are some specific things you can do to protect your hearing:
- Frequently wash earbuds with rubbing alcohol and allow them to dry completely before putting them back in the ear.
- Use bone conduction headphones that leave the ear open and do not create an environment that’s ideal for infections to grow.
- Set a volume limit on phones or tablets to reduce your exposure to loud sounds.
- Take a break from listening to music with earbuds or earpods.
- Give your ears time to rest and recover from exposure to sound so you will avoid hitting that “maximum noise dose” that puts you at greater risk for hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Wear earplugs when around loud sounds, such as when you are doing yard work, going to concerts, sporting events, and more.
- Consider having custom earplugs made that are more comfortable than standard foam ear plugs.
- Get an annual hearing test or a baseline test so you can track your hearing health.
Check Your Hearing or Address Hearing Problems at Excel ENT of Alabama
Remember that there is no cure for hearing loss or tinnitus, so it’s crucial that you protect your hearing starting as early as possible. You want your hearing to last a lifetime! If you’d like to schedule a hearing test or baseline test, we can help you with that at Excel ENT. Schedule an appointment online, or call to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858.