Can Headphones and Earbuds Harm Your Hearing?

Listening to your favorite band or podcast while on a walk through Balboa Park may be beneficial for your mental health, but it could be putting your ears at risk. Exposure to music that is too loud can cause permanent damage to your hearing.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

A pair of earbuds next to a smartphone.

Sounds are measured in decibels (dB). Anything over 85 dB can cause damage to the delicate hair cells within your ear responsible for converting sound vibrations into electrical impulses. These impulses are sent via the auditory nerve to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.

Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises is known as noise-induced hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, anywhere from 6-24% of American adults under the age of 70 may have noise-induced hearing loss.

In order to help avoid exposure, you first need to know which sounds are too loud. Below is a list of the average decibel ratings of some familiar sounds:

  • Normal conversation: 60-70 dB
  • Movie theater: 74-104 dB
  • Dirt bikes: 80-110 dB
  • Listening to music at maximum volume through headphones: 94-110 dB
  • Sirens: 110-129 dB
  • Fireworks: 140-160 dB

How to Set Noise Limits

Now that you understand which sounds can cause damage, you can begin to focus on protecting yourself from them. Here are some tips for keeping your ears safe:

  • Listen at only 50% of your device’s maximum volume
  • Invest in volume-limiting headphones to ensure nothing goes about 85 dB
  • Use a sound meter app to measure how loud your environment is
  • Wear hearing protection when you cannot avoid a loud area

Know the Signs of Hearing Loss

If you spent your youth attending concerts at House of Blues San Diego or frequently find yourself in situations where you have to shout in order to be heard, the damage to your hearing may already be done. If that is the case, now is the time to get your hearing tested.

Like most medical conditions, hearing loss is best treated early. Having difficulty understanding words or feeling like others are mumbling are common initial signs of hearing loss.

To learn more about protecting your hearing or to schedule an appointment for a hearing exam, contact San Diego Hearing Center today.

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