Headphones and Hearing Loss

The other day I was sitting in a class waiting for it to begin when a girl walked in with her headphones blasting music. Some classmates looked at each other with the “WTF” faces while others started dancing to the music as it was so loud. One kid even started playing his own music over it to create a “remix”. It got me thinking, how bad is listening to music on high levels- especially with headphones in.

According to Dr. James E. Foy who is an osteopathic pediatrician says that “Listening through headphones at a high volume for extended periods of time can result in lifelong hearing loss for children and teens. Even a mild hearing loss due to excessive noise could lead to developmental SiemensInfoGraphicTeenHearingdelays in speech and language.” This connection however was found through correlation, not an experiment. The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) reports that “Today, 1 in 5 teens
has some form of hearing loss
 – a rate about 30% higher than it was in the 1980s and 1990s – which many experts believe is due, in part, to the increased use of headphones”. This is an extremely high rate, and a scary one at that. Hearing loss has become more and more prevalent in kids ranging in ages from 6 to 19 according to a study done by Amanda Sue Niskar, RN, BSN, MPH; Stephanie M. Kieszak, MA, MPH; Alice Holmes, PhD, CCC-A; Emilio Esteban, DVM, MBA, PhD; Carol Rubin, DVM, MPH; Debra J. Brody, MPH.

The idea that high volume levels can hurt ears comes from the impact of sound on the fragile hearing system. Peter M. Rabinowitz says,

“To be perceived, sounds must exert a shearing force on the stereocilia of the hair cells lining the basilar membrane of the cochlea. When excessive, this force can lead to cellular metabolic overload, cell damage and cell death. Noise-induced hearing loss therefore represents excessive “wear and tear” on the delicate inner ear structures.”ear_lrg

Meaning that the high volume which exerts a strong force breaks the stereocilia which is”organelles of hair cells, which respond to fluid motion in numerous types of animals for various functions, including hearing and balance”. So basically these tiny hairs have a huge impact on your hearing, and it is believed that high volume levels can lead to the destruction of these hairs. With this idea it makes a lot of sense that headphones could cause hearing damage, sounds at really high levels literally inserted in your ear, close to your eardrum, yeah that could definitely cause damage.

These conclusions to give us reason to believe that hearing loss in kids can be traced back to headphones. But these are only observational studies. Had Amanda Sue Niskar, RN, BSN, MPH; Stephanie M. Kieszak, MA, MPH; Alice Holmes, PhD, CCC-A; Emilio Esteban, DVM, MBA, PhD; Carol Rubin, DVM, MPH; Debra J. Brody, MPH done an experimental study and not an observational one, we would have a more definitive answer. Doing an experiment on these kids would be really unethical because you could be causing them harm. The American AAvoid-Conductive-Hearing-Loss-cademy of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery say that there is a recessive gene that has been linked to hearing loss. So if music was played really loudly in a child’s ear who had this recessive gene, the study would be speeding up how quickly this kid goes deaf! They could try and do an experiment with animals but how would we actually know if the animal is hearing something. You might think we could try with a dog or some type of animal that responds to a voice, but personally my dog likes to ignore me. He hears me perfectly fine (I know this because he will pick his head up and look right at me) but will completely ignore me (he then proceeds to almost roll his eyes and lay his head back down). So in general, it would be really hard to hold an ethical experiment of this.

Overall, I personally will be wary of my headphone volume, it’s not worth risking my health later in my life. Even though these studies point to a correlation between headphone volume levels and hearing loss, there is no solid proof. After finding this article, it really has me thinking, it’s not worth not being able to hear for the rest of my life.pr045-13-image

8 thoughts on “Headphones and Hearing Loss

  1. Caitlyn Ark Post author

    I completely agree! Headphone use is scary, especially when walking around. I have seen multiple people almost get hit by bikes when walking around campus because they’re not paying attention. Putting headphones in lets you be in your own little world and the consequences of that are quite scary. Hopefully if people start turning down the volume they will be able to pay attention to their environment a bit better.

  2. Caitlyn Ark Post author

    Brendan- your hearing definitely is not at as high of a risk from listening to music at a high volume. LiveScience wrote a pretty good article on how to make sure your headphone volume is at a good point! Thanks!!

  3. Brendan Feifer

    This is such a great post, and it answered all but one question I had before reading your work; would my hearing be at risk if I listened to music at normal levels through my headphones?

    I enjoyed reading about the parallelism between headphones and danger. Seemingly everyday I see people walking around campus with their headphones in, whom are completely oblivious to the world around them.

    I loved how you summarized your post and talked about ethics, which is something that I hope we focus on more in class, as I feel that a lot of the studies analyzed during class time teeter on the edge of controversy. Thanks for the awesome post!

  4. amp6199

    While I was reading this story, I was also wondering if listening to headphones while you are en route somewhere (such as to class) can have a more immediate effect. Listening to headphones while you walk is very dangerous. Between 2004-2011, 116 people that were killed or injured in accidents had been wearing headphones. 29% of people who have been involved in an accident while wearing headphones were found to have not even heard the warning signs of the vehicle (such as the honk of a car horn). Based on these studies, people should definitely watch their headphone use, because a lot of bad can come from it.

  5. Stephen B Caruso

    After reading your post I thought the same thing and agree with everything you said. However, I am skeptical about it. Growing up I have taken hearing tests over the years and my most recent visit was right before I came here to college. After the tests the doctor concluded my hearing had not changed or worsened. They stated it was as good as it was five years ago. I was thrilled at this news but it makes me wonder if maybe my ears are the exception to this or if my music is just not loud enough and played frequently enough.

  6. Jack Landau

    Interesting article, which I ironically began reading with headphones blasting music. Given the logical explanation within the article, I am very worried. Growing up, I always played music loudly (not quite equal to the girl in our class). I feel as if kids who are passionate about music tend to be more prone to blast music, rather than listen. Surprisingly, ear-related headphone damage was not my biggest fear. An avid music follower, I attend many concerts and festivals. These shows play music for up to fifteen hours, consecutively. Curious about the negative effects of seeing bass nectar (a bass-heavy artist)live , I asked Google how harmful live music can be. The results disappointed me. Roughly “any unprotected exposure to live sound levels for over an hour” is incredibly damaging. These samples were used in congruence with mainstream, well-known artists such as Gwen Stefani. For those of you unaware of the music difference between Gwen Stefani and bassnectar, let’s jus say Bassnectar’s show is roughly three times longer and infinitely louder(tremble, bass, etc). I should probably cut down the number of shows I attend, if I want to be hearing well at 50.

  7. Josefine Satzke

    I found this really interesting but also it scared me since I blast my music when I wear my headphones. I know it isn’t good, but I love listening to music really loud. I read this article https://withyourcuppa.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/earbuds-vs-over-the-ear-headphones-which-is-better/ which is about the difference of headphones and earbuds and how they affect your hearing loss. There is no major difference between the two, I just know headphones are more hygienic in comparison to earbuds. But after reading this I’ll be sure to turn down my music more often.

  8. Shunyi Yu

    Before moving into the dorm, I usually open the volumn and never use headphones, but now I I live in the dorm and I have to use the headphone, and when I listen to it for a long time, I found the voice become low, and I want to change an ear. Based on this research, I search on internet and want to know other facts that headphone and music will affect, and I found that whether It is safe to put headphones on your belly during pregnancy, and according to the research, the most suitable music for babies to listen is classical music, and when choosing music for baby to listen to with headphones on your belly, it is best to choose music with a soothing harmony. So it is so surprising that headphone isn’t so harmful to babies if you put on belly.
    Citation: http://www.babymed.com/pregnancy-safety/it-safe-put-headphones-your-belly-during-pregnancy

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