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How Much Is Too Much Headphone Use?

Contributed by Ivor Lewis

17/06/2021 • 2 min read

Tags • Research

Is more headphone use leading to hearing loss?

Many of us use earphones throughout the day to drown out noise in our commutes and at work. But is it prematurely damaging our hearing?  Hearing loss is often not a dramatic event, but something that increases over time. Some experts believe it’s some very modern behaviour – such as our increasing use of earphones to listen to music and movies – that may help prematurely age our hearing. And it’s an issue that may be affecting younger adults much more than before.

What noises could put me at risk during leisure activities?

Headphones on music players can reach sound levels as high as 120 decibels, a very loud club or a loud concert could be 105dB. While driving, loud car stereo volumes could reach up to 120dB. According to a study from the University of Leicester, extremely dangerous as noises that exceed 110dB can “strip away myelin sheath from the nerve cells, which hinders the delivery of electrical signals from the ears to the brain.” If you damage your ear in this way, it’s permanent and cannot be reversed.

Many people experience “temporary threshold shifts,”  where hearing is muffled for a few days after a loud concert or clubbing, but then returns. A chemical process your ear does to protect itself, sound appears to lose resolution as the tiny hairs within your inner ear become fatigued. To recover, go to a quiet place until your hearing regains sensitivity and avoid causing more temporary threshold shifts in the future.

How can I stop hearing loss from getting worse?

Jim Fulham, an Audiologist with Hidden Hearing Dundalk says, “Considering that the majority of people will have the sound level too high on their earphones, it might be ten years before these 18 to 24 year olds discover the irreparable damage that has been done. Beware of public transport this can also do the damage. Most people listen to their personal listening devices on public transport, or in noisy places, so they’ll tend to turn them up even louder to drown out the surrounding noise. Don’t be tempted! Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative; it happens gradually over time so a young person listening to loud music will not know that they are doing damage. It’s key that volume is kept relatively low ensuring they can still hear the sounds outside when wearing their earphones”.

Mr Fulham went on to say “We recently had one girl in to be tested and although she was just 25, she had the hearing of an 85 year old lady she had no idea what damage she had done to her hearing”

If you are concerned about any aspect of your hearing healthcare, you can make an appointment to have a hearing evaluation conducted free of charge at your local Hidden Hearing clinic.