If you' re the type of person who listens to music a lot you've probably been told by more than a few people that it can damage your hearing. If you' re the type who listens to music loud, you've definitely heard it before. But is it actually true? Can loud music actually damage your ears? Is there something you should be worried about? Do headphones make it worse? What lead to hearing damage while wearing headphones?
We' re going to take a look at some of these things for you, to make sure you know what you' re doing to your ears.
High Volume is the Culprit
If you've ever heard that music or headphones can damage your ears you' ve probably wondered. Well, the truth is that damage is possible. Yes, those naysayers were right all along. You really can get hearing damage from listening to music. There' s a big caveat to this, however. Hearing damage actually occurs not from music in general or even headphones, but from volume. If you listened to your music through your headphones at the lowest volume you wouldn' t end up with hearing damage. You would be free to enjoy your music however you like. The problem is the volume.
See, most of us don' t listen to our music at the lowest volume. We like to turn it up a little more. The problem is, the louder you turn it up the worse it gets. For those who really like to jam out to their music it causes a big problem. What you should know, however, is that it' s not just about headphones. Headphones direct the sound right into your ear canal, but loud music on the radio is just as bad. Going to a concert with loud music is just as bad. It' s all about the volume itself, not how that volume gets there or even where it comes from.
How Does Loud Music Damage Hearing?
Now you have learned high volume can cause hearing damage. But do you know why loud music can damage hearing?
Have you heard of sound transmission theory? If you haven' t then don' t feel bad. You' re not alone. To put it simply, this theory says that sound transfers through your headphones and into your ears. From there, it can actually cause damage if you' re not careful. Because it' s entering into the eardrum it' s something that can continue to damage the entire ear canal and the eardrum itself. Let' s break it down a little and get technical for a moment.
Your headphones echo sound waves directly into the ear canal. That ear canal then passes the sound waves onward, toward the eardrum. When the eardrum gets those sound waves it actually vibrates. With us so far? As the eardrum vibrates those vibrations move through the inner ear. Now, many people don' t even really know what the inner ear is, but it' s actually the extremely important part of your ear that actually lets you hear things. It' s not about the ear canal or the eardrum; those are just a path toward the inner ear.
When the vibrations from the eardrum get passed into the inner ear they go through several small bones and then into something called the cochlea. You may have heard of a cochlear implant before (if you've ever watched commercials on TV), which help if you've lost some of your hearing. It' s a fluid chamber in the back of the ear that is filled with small 'hairs' as we call them. When the vibration reaches that fluid it does what you would expect, causes the fluid to vibrate. That, in turn, makes the hairs vibrate. So far, we' re still okay. This is what' s supposed to happen and allows you to hear normally.
If the volume of what you're listening to is louder, those hairs vibrate even more. As this happens more and more frequently they lose their sensitivity to the vibrations that are happening around them. They may even start to fold or bend. When the sound goes away they usually return to their normal position. If this happens too frequently, however, they may not. That' s what causes long-term hearing damage, that can' t be fixed.
How Loud is Too Loud?
How can you know how loud is too loud? Figuring out just how loud is actually too much can be difficult for most people. Even if we tell you how many decibels is too loud it' s difficult to understand. After all, what is 40 dB really? Well, we' ve tried to make things a little easier for you by comparing it to things you know. Take a look at the chart below and see how you' re doing with your music. Are you causing yourself ear damage? Is the way you listen to music hurting your ears?
（Chart is from noisehelp）
Any volume level over 85 dB can cause hearing problems over time and should be avoided as much as possible. Unfortunately, most music tends to be 85 dB or above when most people are listening. If you go to a concert or a club especially you' ll find that it' s at least 85 dB. To put it in comparison, a normal conversation is only 70 dB. If you' re listening to your music louder than that it' s not doing you any good. You could end up with hearing damage over time. Though it takes over 8 hours per day average to cause damage over time that adds up.
Long-Term Exposure to Music
Another cause of hearing loss is long-term exposure to music. What happens when you listen to music for extended times? If you' re exposed to loud music (or anything) for extended periods, it starts to cause more damage. The louder it is the less time it takes for you to start seeing problems. That' s why it' s important to avoid long-term exposure. Make sure you pay attention to the table below. Knowing how long you can listen to different volumes will prepare you. You' ll be able to reduce your possible hearing damage that way.
（Chart is from noisehelp）
One important factor is to lower the volume on your device. If someone that doesn' t have the headphones on can hear your music then chances are it' s too loud. Keep the volume so that only you can hear it. Make sure also that you avoid loud areas. If something loud is happening around you it can be difficult to keep the volume down. You feel like you need it louder to hear. Staying away from clubs and concerts is another important step to avoid hearing damage.
Does the Use of Headphones Damage Your Hearing Irreversibly?
Okay, so the answer is a qualified yes. What that means is that the answer is sometimes yes, but sometimes no. If you listen to your headphones too long and at too loud of a volume it can cause damage. In general, 100 dB is where you' re starting to get some damage. At 115 dB you' ll likely start to experience pain. When you get up to 120 dB you're actually getting irreversible damage. Some concerts actually play volume up to 136 dB however, so you could be in trouble that way.
What Are Acceptable Volume Levels While Hearing Music on Headphones?
If you want to listen to music on headphones you need to make sure that you' re not listening too loud. Ideally, you should listen at 85 dB at the most. This is a good volume where you can hear it and jam out but not cause damage. Of course, if you get up to 8 hours a day you can get hearing damage. If you get up to 120 dB you start experiencing damage after just 30 seconds. So try to stick to 85 dB or lower for your listening pleasure.
Will Using Bluetooth Headphones Cause Damage to My Head?
Bluetooth headphones get a bad rap on their own. Many people think they cause damage. The truth is that they are safe. You aren' t going to have any additional problems from Bluetooth over anything else. That means your regular headphones and Bluetooth are the same in most ways. Of course, if you use your Bluetooth headphones too loud they cause damage as well. Keep the volume below 85 dB and you' ll be fine.
Can You Tell if Long-Term Headphone Use is Causing Progressive Hearing Loss?
While there is no substitute for going to a professional, there are ways to tell. The first thing is to look at the way you currently hear. If you experience any of these things it could be a sign:
- Difficulty understanding people talking to you
- Ringing or buzzing in your ears
- Muffled sounds around you
- Difficulty understanding people in noisy areas
The best thing that you can do is get a hearing test. They can let you know if you have hearing problems. They also let you know how bad they are and if they are consistent with your age.
If you use headphones a lot it' s important to look at where hearing damage could occur. You definitely don' t want to end up with hearing problems. The younger you are when those start the worse it can be. If all it takes is keeping your volume down while you' re listening that' s a good thing. So what lead to hearing damage while wearing headphones? Volume is the number one factor. Keep the volume down and you likely won't have problems. Of course, the extended length of listening could be a factor as well. The louder your volume the less time you can listen without damage. Keep the charts above in mind when you're listening.