Headphones vs Earbuds, which one causes more hearing damages?

  Headphones and earbuds are essential equipments for people nowadays. It is not rare to see students walking to class with their earphones on. Personally, I don’t have any preferences to either of them, but I have heard about statements which suggest that both devices cause hearing damages. Above that, some even suggest that earbuds are more harmful than headphones when it comes to hearing problems. And believe it or not, this statement even made my parents bought me a new headphone in order to replace my earbuds. So I think it would be interesting to look into those statements. Does those devices really cause hearing problems? Which one produces more hearing damages?

headphones  To understand whether headphones and earbuds damage our auditory system or not, I found out a source published by the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) . It concluded that nerve fibres are much more vulnerable than hair cells, an auditory system receptor also appears as an indicator sometimes for hearing lost, in the inner ear. According to Liberman, director of MEEI Eaton Peabody Laboratory at Harvard Medical School, people could lose 90% of their cochlear nerve fibres without any consciousness. This means that even though there aren’t any damages on the hair cells, people could still lose their hearings if the nerve fibres are damaged. To me, it is possible that the direct transform of noise from the earphone devices to the cochlea could cause damages.

  An article from NBC News suggested that headphones are a better option than earbuds. It stated the “60/60” rules, which means the volume of the MP3 or phone devices should be under 60% and a person should be listening to it less than 60 minutes per day. However, when it comes to public environments, most of the people have the tendency to volume up their devices in order to block the noises from the surrounding. In those cases, headphones would be a better option than earbuds, because it covers up the ears to prevent outside noise. The article also included an infographic which listed out the reasons why earbuds cause more harm to ears.


  It is certain that exposed to loud musics for a long period could damage hearing. But, headphones and earbuds, which one causes more hearing damages? I think it’s impossible to tell without seeing more statistics. Although there are tons of articles that are posted to explain how headphones are superior than earbuds and listed out possible mechanism behind it, there are still lack of research and experiments created on this area of study. The reason of that might be related to ethnical consideration by setting up experiments on this topic. If we think about it, signing up a randomized control trial by randomly dedicated people to groups which only use their headphones, or earbuds or banned them from using anything at all really isn’t possible. I think this is similar to the smoking cause cancer or the soda drink studies we’ve talked about in class. It’s impossible to force the smokers stop smoking or banned the kids from drinking sodas. The only thing we could do in these situations is controlled the strength of variables to see what it does to the correlation, such as comparing groups that drink diet coke with groups that drink coke. So, as the amount of studies on of headphones and earbuds increases in the future. We’ll get a better chance to tell the true result of it.

6 thoughts on “Headphones vs Earbuds, which one causes more hearing damages?

  1. Melanie Dawn Weltner

    Extremely relevant topic for our generation. I really enjoyed the factual basis of your blog post as well as the organization. Very good! Both, in my opinion, can be damaging when the volume is up too high. I think although the evidence shows a favor for one over the other that as long as you keep whichever device you are using at a low and reasonable volume then it does not much matter which one you use. Here is an article that explains some safe ways to enjoy music on your headphones or earbuds! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/24/loud-music-headphones_n_6174340.html

  2. Lucille Laubenstein

    I was a little apprehensive about your blog at first because of the lack of physical studies included. However, your last paragraph did a great job at pointing that out, and providing an explanation as to why that might be so, which was really beneficial to the blog as a whole. I looked into it to see if there were any studies geared specifically toward this, and was hard pressed to find any. Most of the studies I came across were on whether or not these listening mechanisms in general caused hearing damage, not the differences between the two. What I have concluded is that like with many things in life, the key is moderation. Improper use, and over use can be major factors in that amount of damage caused. And this isn’t a new concept, this study from 1985 correlates hearing damage with these listening devices. http://oto.sagepub.com/content/93/5/622.short What I would be interested to find out about is since this is not new information, why do we not have safer options for personal listening devices? The ability to hear is one of our major senses, and one would think that preventing the loss of this ability would be of some importance, so why are we still having issues with this tech?

  3. Wesley Scott Alexander

    I really liked this blog and thought it was especially important to us as college students! I too see hundreds of people everyday walking to class with headphones or earbuds on, and I too use earbuds to listen to music at the gym. The thought never occurred to me that listening to music, especially with it turned up due to the loud ambient noise at the gym, could have a significant negative impact on my hearing. The 60/60 really grabbed my attention. It is something easy to remember and apply to everyday life and it is definitely something I will keep in mind when listening to music. This is an interesting article that talks about the relative levels of decibels and how they affect the safety of your ears you can check it out here

  4. Monica Lynn Powell

    Great, relevant topic for an article! I’m not sure I quite understood the study you were talking about. It would have been really helpful if you defined some of the terms you used like nerve fibers. Maybe it is just me but I wasn’t familiar with all of your terminology. I think you had some good thoughts on the topic, for example reasons why you hypothesize that headphones would be safer than earbuds. I also really enjoyed your “60/60” rule, I’m definitely going to remember that now and try to follow it! I have to disagree with you though when you say that it would be impossible to do a randomized control trial on this. I think many people would be interested in taking part in study where they could only use headphones, earbuds or neither. You’d be surprised what people will do for money! The only thing I am not sure on is how long you would have to run this experiment for to see actual results. Here’s some more information on the cochlear nerve, if anyone is like me and needed a bit more information. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochlear_nerve

  5. Pengji Wei

    Hello Xueyao. Great article. This is also a question has bothered me for a long time. Because when I take the flight to US, I usually with my headphones with 14 hours. Because I have to block the noise from the engine in order to sleep. The reason I chose to wear a headphone instead of earbuds i because I think it is less damage to the ear. Like you said in blog, because headphones are around ears, so it does not need a high volume to block the noises from outside. Because I am going to listen to music for at least 10 hours during the flight, so I want get less damage to my hearing. I think may be one, scientist might can tell us which one is more harmful to our hearings. And here is a website you can look at about this topic.

  6. Grace Ellen Leibow

    This blog post definitely grabbed my attention because I actually did a very similar one for the last blogging period. However, I focused on whether bluetooth earphones are safe for your ears, a topic that may not be the same, but is definitely related. Earphones are of course a threat to hearing, but what about bluetooth earphones, a recent fad in the technology industry? The sound waves sent directly to your ear seem to pose an even greater threat. However, luckily, studies have shown that these headphones are not in fact any more dangerous than normal earphones, and the bluetooth technology is very safe. If you are interested in reading more on this, it could add a really interesting third component to your post. You can check it out here: http://www.livescience.com/56027-bluetooth-headphone-safety-concerns-with-iphone-7.html

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