On Thursday during our SC-200 lecture, there was a mysterious pulsing noise. About 1/3 of the class could hear the sound, and unfortunately I was not among those students, so I have no idea what they were talking about. After turning the lights on and off and taking guesses about the projector and many other things, Andrew asked us if the sound was high pitched. Why should that matter? I thought. He then said something along the lines of the fact that with age comes the loss of the ability to hear sounds over a certain range of pitches. I decided that I definitely would like to find out more about this.
According to The Biology Stack Exchange, adults experience hearing loss when they begin to lose their hair cells (tiny sound receptors inside of their ears that deliver sounds to the brain). They apparently begin to lose the ability to hear high frequency sounds first before low frequency sounds.
This information intrigued me, and reminded me of how my mother is always nagging my brother to turn his music down. She is concerned about the long term effects his ridiculously-loud headphones are having on his hearing.
Image Found Here!
I believe that the use of headphones (especially earbuds) at a volume over a particularly high decibel might have damaging, lasting effects on hearing. I do not believe that there are any confounding variables to blame for this, like genetics or quality of earphones. I think that if a someone regularly listens to dangerously loud music, their hearing will be damaged.
According to the American Osteopathic Association, 20% of teenagers have hearing loss! This number has escalated 30% since a few decades ago and really loud headphones are likely to blame.
Some information found by the MRC Institute of Hearing Research on the Guardian found that while there was not enough direct evidence based on a specific set of data from 2010 to indicate that there is a causal relationship between loud headphone music and hearing damage (loud music was not the only thing they could determine was to blame for hearing loss and there could have been confounding variables), the Oregon Health and Science University (Info Here) suggests that listening to music at 105dB, a commonly found (and extremely loud!) volume for headphones, can lead to hearing loss in as little as fifteen minutes.
The Guardian refers to a study conducted in the 1960s where women were exposed to loud industrial sounds for much of their lives, and experienced significant damage to their hearing in about a decade. Based on this information, I think loud headphones might result in similar effects.
It was also suggested on The Guardian that people should invest in good quality headphones because cheaper ones might have a less safe way of conveying loud bass sounds to your ears. I did not initially think the quality of headphones should matter.
I’d imagine it is hard to determine the long-term effects of extremely loud headphones because we are really the first generation to use these very noisy little earbuds so regularly. This is similar to the way we learned in class that scientists could not see that cigarettes were causing lung cancer for such a long time. They had to wait decades before the effects would show and they could find correlations. Perhaps it will take a bit more time for scientists to be able to accurately measure and understand how bad loud earphones actually are for us.
In conclusion, I think people should be cautious when using headphones, just in case. Although there might not exactly be concrete evidence that shows the specific effects loud music has on people’s hearing, it is almost common sense that you probably shouldn’t blast your music at maximum volume for hours on end.