Our parents have been nagging us for years to “Take those headphones out! You’ll go deaf!” Who knew that, yet again, our parents would be right? Recently, researchers have uncovered the disastrous effects of earbuds on hearing in young adults. According to the American Osteopathic Association, 1 in every 5 teenagers will have some sort of hearing loss. That is a 30% increase in comparison to the hearing abilities of teenagers in the 1980s and 1990s. Researchers have found an almost direct link from young adult hearing loss to the advent of personal headphones.
So how does listening to music equate to eventually going deaf in later years? Mp3 players can reach decibels up to 120. This is equivalent to the noise levels at a rock concert. Teens are listening to this level of noise pollution an average of 3 hours every single day. The design of most modern earbuds allow them to sit just before the inner ear, which amplifies any sound at least 9 decibels higher than if the noise was coming from outside the ear. The high decibel causes the myelin sheaths coating the nerve endings to disintegrate. Without these coatings, the nerves cannot transport messages to the brain effectively. In turn, the brain cannot interpret the sounds into brain waves. (SOTT)
Headphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung defend the invention claiming it’s not the machines themselves; rather, the volume at which the user plays his music. The International Journal of Audiology conducted an experiment to chart the damaging effects of personal music players on the hearing tissue. It was discovered that pain in the ear begins at 125dB, which is equivalent to the noise of a hand drill. Death of hearing tissue begins at 180dB, which is equivalent to standing 100 feet away from a jet engine for an extended period of time. These levels can be reached by regular, loud headphone use.
Dr. David A. Schlessel of Stony Brook Medicine created a chart indicating the damage that can occur after using headphones depending on duration of exposure to noise pollution.
- At 95 dB, damage will occur after four hours of exposure per day.
- At 100 dB, damage will occur after two hours of exposure per day.
- At 105 dB, damage will occur after one hour of exposure per day.
- At 110 dB, damage will occur after 30 minutes of exposure per day.
- At 115 dB, damage will occur after 15 minutes of exposure per day.
- At 120-plus dB, damage occurs almost immediately.
So how do we prevent the younger generation from having worse hearing than our grandparents? Dr. Foy of the American Osteopathic Association prescribes using headphones at 60% full volume for a maximum of 60 minutes a day. If surrounding bystanders can hear the music from your headphones, it’s way too loud. Doctors also recommend people invest in larger, over the ear headphones to avoid the inner ear damage. In previous generations, the leading cause of hearing loss was excessive noise in the workplace. Times have changed and headphones have surged in worldwide popularity. Changing teen’s habits before drastic hearing damage will definitely be difficult. If we’re being honest, I typed this entire blog while listening to music with headphones on full blast. Oh well.