Headphones are a device that best reflects the modern human condition. Today’s wireless headphones, AirPods, and earbuds allow you to connect to a global community of sounds while simultaneously giving you the ability to isolate yourself from everyone you see. They let you watch Netflix or listen to music or stay in tune to the news from everywhere. It’s pretty awesome! But the way we generally use them can also be a health risk.
At least, as far as your ears are concerned. And this is something that the World Health Organization has also acknowledged. Headphones are everywhere so this is very troubling.
The Hazard of Headphones And Earbuds
Frances loves Lizzo. And so she listens to Lizzo a lot. Because Frances loves Lizzo so much, she also turns the volume way up (there’s a special enjoyment in listening to your favorite song at full power). Frances uses high-quality headphones so she won’t bother other people with her loud music.
This kind of headphone usage is relatively common. Sure, there are lots of other reasons and places you might use them, but the primary purpose is the same.
We want to be able to listen to anything we want without bothering people around us, that’s the reason why we use headphones. But this is where it can get dangerous: we’re subjecting our ears to a significant amount of noise in a prolonged and intense way. After a while, that noise can cause injury, which leads to hearing loss. And a wide variety of other health concerns have been linked to hearing loss.
Protect Your Hearing
Healthcare specialists consider hearing health to be a major component of your all-around wellness. And that’s the reason why headphones pose somewhat of a health hazard, especially since they tend to be everywhere (headphones are rather easy to get a hold of).
The question is, then, what can be done about it? Researchers have provided a few concrete steps we can all use to help make headphones a little safer:
- Restrict age: Headphones are being used by younger and younger people these days. And it may be wiser if we cut back on that a little, limiting the amount of time younger children spend using headphones. The longer we can prevent the damage, the more time you’ll have before hearing loss begins.
- Take breaks: It’s tough not to pump up the volume when you’re listening to your favorite tunes. That’s easy to understand. But your hearing needs a bit of time to recuperate. So every now and then, give yourself at least a five minute break. The strategy is to give your ears some time with lower volumes every day. By the same token, monitoring (and reducing) your headphone-wearing time can help keep higher volumes from injuring your ears.
- Turn down the volume: 85dB is the maximum volume that you should listen to your headphones at as outlined by the World Health organization (60dB is the normal volume of a conversation for context). Most mobile devices, regrettably, don’t have a dB volume meter built in. Try to be sure that your volume is lower than half or look into the output of your particular headphones.
- Pay attention to volume warnings: Most mobile devices have warnings when the volume gets to be dangerous. So if you use a mobile device to listen to music, you need to heed these warnings.
You may want to consider reducing your headphone use altogether if you are at all concerned about your health.
I Don’t Actually Need to be Concerned About my Hearing, Right?
You only get one pair of ears so you shouldn’t disregard the impact of hearing damage. But several other health factors, including your mental health, can be affected by hearing issues. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to increases in the chances of issues like depression and dementia.
So your general well-being is forever linked to the health of your ears. And that means your headphones may be a health risk, whether you’re listening to music or a baking podcast. So the volume down a little and do yourself a favor.