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Headphone use is more ubiquitous now than it ever has been. You probably use headphones to listen to phone calls, music, and more. Whether you use noise-canceling headphones, AirPods, or just standard earbuds, it’s important to note that headphone use may contribute to hearing loss later in life.

Headphones and hearing loss: What’s the link?

You may be wondering if there’s really a link between headphone use and hearing loss. After all, virtually everyone uses headphones now! The answer is yes, headphones can really increase your risk your hearing loss. However, the key issue is really the volume.

You probably know by now that loud noise exposure is one of the biggest causes of hearing loss. Headphones bring noise directly to your ear, and often times when we are listening to audio with headphones, we turn up the volume to immerse ourselves and drown out noise around us. Device audio can get dangerously loud—most devices can reach up to 115 decibels, which can lead to permanent hearing damage in under 15 minutes.

This can lead to problematic hearing loss if it’s constant, and it could lead to hearing loss pretty early on in life. In 2019, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 50% of the world’s population of people aged 12-35 were at risk for hearing loss due to “prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music they listen to through personal audio devices.”

How to prevent hearing loss from headphones

Listening to music with headphones is generally a better listening experience. So, we don’t want to stay stop using your headphones! There are some precautions and easy steps you can take to lessen your risk of hearing loss while using headphones.

  1. Use the volume lock. Most iPods, mp3 players, and smartphones have a setting where you can set the max volume of your audio. Put this no higher than 60% of the device’s maximum volume. This is especially important to do for your children or grandchildren—start hearing loss prevention early!
  2. Take little breaks. For every hour of listening, take your headphones out for 3-5 minutes to give your ears a rest—yes, they need it!
  3. Use over-the-ear headphones, if possible. Earbuds are easier to carry around, but over-the-ear headphones cancel out noise This means you’re more likely to listen to audio at a lower volume than with earbuds. If you can afford it, splurge for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

We spend a lot of time with our headphones and earbuds—on the train, while exercising, and at home. It’s important to remember that while you’re enjoying your music, TV shows, or podcasts, you have to take an active role in hearing loss prevention. Follow the easy tips above to keep your ears safe and healthy!

By: Elena McPhillips