Headphones are a device that best exemplifies the modern human condition. Modern wireless headphones, AirPods, and earbuds let you to link to a global community of sounds while simultaneously enabling you to separate yourself from everyone you see. They let you listen to music or watch Netflix or keep up with the news from anywhere. They’re great. But headphones could 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 worrisome.
Some Dangers With Earbuds or Headphones
Frances loves to listen to Lizzo all the time. When she’s really getting into it she normally cranks up the volume (most people love to jam out to their favorite music at full volume). She’s a considerate person, though, so Frances uses high-quality headphones to enjoy her tunes.
This is a fairly common use of headphones. Sure, there are plenty of other reasons and places you might use them, but the fundamental 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 considerable amount of noise in a prolonged and intense way. Hearing loss can be the consequence of the damage caused by this extended exposure. And a wide range of other health issues have been linked to hearing loss.
Keep Your Hearing Safe
Healthcare specialists think of hearing health as a major element of your all-around wellness. And that’s why headphones present somewhat of a health hazard, particularly since they tend to be everywhere (headphones are very easy to get a hold of).
What can be done about it is the real question? Researchers have put forward a few concrete steps we can all take to help make headphones a bit safer:
- Don’t turn them up so loud: 85dB is the highest volume that you should listen to your headphones at according to the World Health organization (for context, the volume of a normal conversation is something like 60dB). Most mobile devices, unfortunately, don’t have a dB volume meter built in. Try to make sure that your volume is lower than half or look into the output of your specific headphones.
- Restrict age: Headphones are being used by younger and younger people nowadays. And it’s likely a wise decision to minimize the amount of time younger people are spending with headphones. The longer we can prevent the damage, the more time you’ll have before hearing loss takes hold.
- Volume warnings are important: It’s likely that you listen to your music on your mobile device, and most mobile devices have built-in warnings when you start cranking up the volume a little too much. It’s extremely important for your hearing health to comply with these warnings as much as possible.
- Take breaks: It’s difficult not to crank up the volume when you’re listening to your favorite music. Most people can relate to that. But you need to take a little time to allow your ears to recover. So every now and again, give yourself at least a five minute rest. The strategy is to give your ears some time with lower volumes every day. By the same token, monitoring (and limiting) your headphone-wearing time will help keep moderate volumes from injuring your ears.
You may want to consider minimizing your headphone usage entirely if you are at all worried about your health.
I Don’t Really Need to Worry About my Hearing, Right?
When you’re younger, it’s not hard to consider damage to your ears as unimportant (which you shouldn’t do, you only get one set of ears). But several other health factors, including your mental health, can be influenced by hearing problems. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to increases in the risk for problems like dementia and depression.
So your overall wellness is forever connected 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 do yourself a favor and down the volume, just a little bit.