A Silent Threat: How Earbuds are Damaging our Hearing

Our ears used to be tuned into the whispers of nature – the rustling leaves signaling prey, the approaching predator’s growl, the distant storm’s rumble. Survival depended on it!

Fast forward to today, and our auditory world is a cacophony. Traffic, sirens, construction, and even restaurants and concerts bombard us with noise. But a sneaky culprit lurks closer than you think: earbuds.

Sales of headphones have nearly doubled in a decade, with over half a billion pairs sold in 2023 alone. Many of us listen for hours on end, and it turns out, this constant exposure isn’t doing our hearing any favors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates over 1 billion young adults (ages 12-35) risk permanent hearing loss from unsafe listening habits. By 2050, they predict 1 in 10 of us will have disabling hearing loss.

But there’s hope!

A groundbreaking study by the University of Michigan and Apple is looking into how we listen with earbuds, paving the way for safer practices. Over 180,000 participants have shared their listening habits, revealing that 1 in 3 is exposed to excessive noise levels. The key finding? We tend to listen louder and longer than we should.

Here’s how to listen safely:

  • Turn down the volume: Most phones have built-in volume limiters. Use them! Aim for a safe level, ideally below 70 decibels (a little louder than someone talking 3 feet away).
  • Give your ears a break: Take frequent listening breaks throughout the day. Your ears can handle short bursts of loud noise, but prolonged exposure is damaging.
  • Embrace noise cancellation: This tech lets you enjoy music at lower volumes, especially in noisy environments.
  • Transparency matters: Don’t block out your surroundings entirely. Use transparency mode when needed to stay aware.
  • Listen to your body: Loud noise can cause stress and anxiety. If overwhelmed, take a quiet break.

Awareness is key! By following these tips, you can keep rocking your earbuds without jeopardizing your hearing health in the long run.

Tips for Safe Listening

  • Set a volume limit: Most phones have a setting to limit how loud earbuds can go.
  • Take breaks: Give your ears a rest by taking breaks from earbuds throughout the day.
  • Use noise-cancelling: This can help you hear your music better at a lower volume.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: Noise-cancelling can block out important sounds, so use transparency mode when you need to hear what’s going on around you.
  • Pay attention to how noise makes you feel: Loud noise can cause stress and other health problems. If you feel overwhelmed, take a break from the noise.

The Key: Awareness

The biggest factor in protecting your hearing is simply being aware of how much noise you’re exposed to. By following these tips, you can enjoy your earbuds without risking your hearing.

Want to learn more?

Study by University of Michigan and Apple

World Health Organization

What your Earbuds are doing to your Hearing