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Ever since the Walkman was invented and released back in 1979, people everywhere have been able to enjoy their favorite music in public spaces without causing any disturbance.
Over time, headphones developed into earbuds that could be discreetly inserted into our ears to enjoy even more privacy while listening to a wide array of content, from music to eBooks, podcasts, video games, movies and phone calls.
As a result, we’re spending more and more of our time with headphones or earphones in our ears than ever before. But as they say, ‘too much of a good thing can be bad for you’ and the same goes for headphone use. The more time we spend listening with headphones, the more damage we cause to our hearing.
It’s a scientifically backed fact that hearing loss often occurs as a result of listening to loud sounds for long periods of time.
In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did a study between 2011 and 2012, in which interviews and hearing tests were conducted with millions of Americans. The results showed that over 40 million American adults had experienced some form of hearing loss either in one or both ears, due to listening loud sounds for long periods of time.
How Popular Are the Headphones?
While it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment at which headphones became so popular, experts say that it happened as a result of a confluence of technological advances. You see, it was during this time that Samsung released its long-awaited Galaxy S3, which was rumored to become the first genuine rival to Apple’s iPhone 5, which was also due for release that year.
Ever since then, the number of people who used their smartphones synonymously with their headphones grew at an astronomical rate. Thanks to the proliferation of streaming platforms like Pandora and Spotify, more and more people are now listening to music via their smartphones.
Add to that the prevalence of trendy headphone brands and you’ve got a whole generation of teens who’re constantly glued to their smartphones and headphones.
What to Do When You Have Hearing Damage?
If you suspect that you’re suffering from hearing loss, the best course of action is to start by consulting with your physician, or even better, a hearing specialist. These are also the best people to contact if you suddenly lose your hearing, which actually happens more often than you think.
How to Recover Hear Loss Due to Listening to Headphones Frequently?
The bad news is that once hearing loss occurs, there’s nothing you can do to regain it. However, you can prevent it from getting worse by lowering the volume every time you listen to headphones and only put them on when it’s absolutely necessary (like when you're in a public space and you want to block out loud sounds).
How to Avoid Hearing Damage from Headphones?
The good news is that it’s quite simple and easy for anyone to avoid hearing damage due to headphone use. All you have to do is change a few lifestyle habits and learn to use your headphones more safely.
► Turn down the volume
The best way to prevent hearing loss from headphone use is to not turn the volume up very high when you’re listening to your phone or any other mobile listening device for that matter. You see, the leading cause of noise-induced hearing loss is exposure to loud noises. So, it really helps to regulate the volume better when listening to headphones.
► Use noise-canceling headphones
One of the main reasons why people use headphones so much in the first place is to cancel out the loud noises around them. However, you don’t have to increase the volume to achieve this, and you can simply invest in noise-canceling headphones instead.
► Use over-the-ear models
Another way to protect your eardrums from getting damaged is to use over-the-ear headphones instead of the in-ear models.
► Limit your exposure
In addition to keeping the volume low, you could also try limiting the amount of time you spend listening to your headphones. A good rule of thumb to try out is known as the “60-60 rule” which means that if you listen to your headphones at 60% of the max volume, then you shouldn’t spend more than 60 minutes with them on.
How to Know If You Have Hearing Damage?
► Difficulty understanding words during conversations
If you’re starting to notice an increasing need to ask people to repeat themselves in conversations even though you’re in a quiet setting, then your hearing is probably starting to get damaged.
► Difficulty hearing certain devices
Some people suddenly find that they have a hard time hearing a sound that was formerly easy for them to perceive -like voices in a movie theatre film or the alarm clock. This is usually a sign that the ears are no longer able to pick up those frequencies and is another sign of hearing damage.
► A decrease in extroversion
Hearing loss can turn you from a social butterfly into an introvert because it can affect your ability to hear and participate in a regular conversation. This can obviously make social situations awkward and difficult, especially if you’re trying to hold a conversation with multiple people at once.
► Loss of balance
Does walking in a straight line make you feel dizzy and more than a little off-balance? Then you might be suffering from hearing loss, which is often diagnosed in health conditions like Ménière’s disease or acoustic neuroma.
► Pain in one or both ears
Ear pain is a very common sign of hearing loss but it can also be caused by an ear infection like otitis media. This often happens to children and is usually accompanied by irritability and/or fever.
What Types of Headphones Are Safer for Your Hearing?
There are basically two types of over-ear headphones to choose from: open and closed, and in-ear headphones:
|Open headphone||Closed headphone||In-ear headphone|
|Open Headphones feature ear cups that prevent the volume from getting too loud. However, this might cause you to turn up the volume in a bid to compensate for the noise that filters through when you’re in a loud setting.||Closed Headphones are better at filtering out background noise, and as a result, you won’t necessarily feel the need to turn the volume up when there’s a lot of external noise going on.||In-Ear Headphones are very good at eliminating external noise but they can be very damaging to the ears if not used safely. For the best results, keep the volume low when using these headphones so you can prevent hearing loss.|
If you suspect that your hearing is not exactly what it used to be, then it might be a good idea to consult with your physician, as it might be a symptom of something more severe like bone damage or even head trauma. Also, it’s important for you to go for regular check-ups with an audiologist regardless of your doctor’s diagnosis. Hearing aids are another great way for you to protect your hearing, and the sooner you get them, the better.
Whatever you do, don’t leave hearing loss unchecked for too long as this might lead to even worse problems like dementia or depression, and it’s better if you get treatment for it early on.