Are Earphones Dangerous to Your Ears?

24/07/13 3:44 PM

Actually the answer is yes, earphones could be very harmful to your ears. 

A group from the University of Leicester only just proved that noises louder than 110 intensity cause damage to some particular type nerve cell coating, which in turn can cause tinnitus (principally a active or droning within the ears – and here is me thinking that it just made things sound ‘a tad tinny’) and even provisional deafness in some instances. 

According to medical medical news, who reported for the University’s findings, the myelin sheath is a kind of outside layer that covers the nerve cells that attach the ears the brain. Any noise over a hundred decibels begins to wear away this coating, meaning the indicators will ultimately stop getting to the brain. Given time, the myelin sheath will typically (but not at all times) cure itself and reform, giving you the damage only being brief. Still, it is a thing to think about. 

As for more enduring damage, well, the details are instead startling. According to TIME magazine’s Laura Blue,  

“Hearing loss is more common than ever before. About 16% of American adults have an impaired ability to hear speech, and more than 30% of Americans over age 20 — an estimated 55 million people — have lost some high-frequency hearing”. 

These surprising stats were proposed within the ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’ journal and initially published in ’08. Following this publication, Blue interviewed Brian Fligor, who was, at the time, the director of diagnostic audiology at Children’s Hospital Boston. In the interview, Fligor said, 

“If you’re using the earbuds that come with an iPod and you turn the volume up to about 90% of maximum and you listen a total of two hours a day, five days a week, our best estimates are that the people who have more sensitive ears will develop a rather significant degree of hearing loss — on the order of 40 decibels (dB). That means the quietest sounds audible are 40 dB loud. Now, this is high-pitched hearing loss, so a person can still hear sounds and understand most speech. The impact is going to be most clearly noted when the background-noise level goes up, when you have to focus on what someone is saying. Then it can really start to impair your ability to communicate”. 

Thus, the title now becomes, what are you able to do to reduce the risk? 

Sam Costello of suggests turning down the volume, which is fairly clear, really. Though, (s)he also suggests accessing the ‘volume control’ on your iPod or device and reducing the highest volume setting (synch it to the computer for further like options), and also listening for shorter periods of time and switching from earbuds to ‘over the ear’ phones. Earbuds are the most hazardous headset type, apparently. 

Just for the record, the common American iPod can produce about 115 decibels, that’s equivalent to attending a reasonably loud rock concert (although not only a Motorhead gig obviously – now that is a group which almost ensures total deafness for at least several days afterwards, trust me). 

However, the excellent news is that even if you’re in the EU, your iPod is limited to 100db highest output by law. Even though you are still at risk if you turn the volume all the way up and hear all of it day long, that danger is considerably less on our side of the pond. 

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