Are you a working professional or college goer who listens to long hours of music during commute? Do your children in their teens spend a lot of time glued to a smartphone watching videos and listening to music? Are you a young adult who enjoys loud music at the gym, home and parties? Chances are you are one among the billion people at a high risk of hearing loss due to earphones usage.
We have compiled this article to help you prevent hearing loss due to earphones usage.
“Over a billion young people are at risk of hearing loss simply by doing what they really enjoy doing a lot, which is listening regularly to music through their headphones over their devices” said Dr Shelly Chadha, a Technical Officer, working on preventing deafness and hearing loss at WHO.
The impending risk is so high that Ear specialists like Dr Rao’s ENT, global health organizations like WHO and smartphone companies like Google are trying within their means to educate about digital wellness and bring in change.
Hearing experts say more than 1 billion people in the age group of 12 to 35 are at risk or have already undergone some irreversible damage to their ears due to exposure to loud sounds such as music played on their phones or speakers. The worrying part is noise induced hearing loss creeps in gradually, you do not lose your hearing dramatically overnight but over a prolonged period. During this time your favorite music starts sounding dimmer, your family and friends find it difficult to communicate with you and it hits your lifestyle and confidence before you realize that it is too late!
What causes noise induced hearing loss?
Our inner ear contains tiny and delicate sensory hair cells which act as receptors for our hearing as well as vestibular system. They are present in the cochlea of the inner ear and are responsible for amplifying and transforming the sound vibrations into electrical signals and relaying them to the brain.
When these hair cells are subjected to loud noise they are permanently damaged and unlike many animals, human beings are not capable of regenerating these damaged cells resulting in a permanent loss of hearing.
What are the safe hearing limits you should be aware of?
Ear experts put the safe hearing threshold at 85 decibels which is as loud as heavy traffic or a window air conditioner. A brief exposure to noise beyond this limit can cause temporary threshold shifts where your hearing gets muffled temporarily and is restored in a few days. This is the body’s protective mechanism for brief exposures to loud noises at a loud club or a concert.
But your ears cannot protect themselves over prolonged period of noise exposure leading to permanent and irreversible damage. If you are exposed to loud noise at a younger age, you may not see an immediate effect but have a more severe hearing loss when you get older.
Once lost, hearing does not come back. In the case of hearing loss, prevention is the only cure. Follow our advice to prevent hearing loss due to earphones usage.
Tips for safe hearing
“Save your ears for the golden years” – Listen to what our founder-chairman and renowned ear specialist Dr GVS Rao has to say about safe hearing for children and youngsters.
Follow the 60/60 rule –
To prevent damage to ears due to high volume levels, limit your volume to 60%. As a rule of thumb, do not use earphones for more than 60 minutes at a volume level of not more than 60%.
Headphones or earphones – which is the better and safer alternative?
Earphones channel the sound directly into the ear canal thereby increasing the chances of damage. Though headphones can also cause similar damage at high decibel levels, they are a better alternative compared to earphones.
Ear plugs are mandatory for a noise work environment –
If your working environment subjects you to high noise levels such as in a factory, you should wear ear plugs to prevent damage to your ears.
Opt for noise cancelling headphones –
We often crank up the volume to cancel out outside noise, for example in our commute we find the traffic noise high. Noise cancelling headphones and over the ear headphones are better at isolating ambient sounds thereby allowing you to enjoy music at a lower volume.
Follow this general advice to ascertain if you are exposing yourself to loud music/audio –
If someone at arm’s length can hear music coming from your headphones, or if you raise your voice to speak to someone at an arm’s distance chances are, your volume is high!
What should you do if you suspect your hearing is damaged?
Early detection of hearing loss is crucial for effective treatment and to prevent further deterioration. Fortunately, we have at our disposal many tools which can help us evaluate our hearing from time to time. In case you are seeking expert help, you can visit an Ear specialist like Dr Rao’s ENT for a thorough diagnosis and treatment plan.
WHO has developed a free app called hearWHO which is based on validated digits-in-noise technology that allows the general public to quickly screen their hearing status and monitor it over time. If you regularly listen to music or you are exposed to noise as a part of your profession we highly recommend this screening on a regular basis.