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Healthy Living Blog

How Earbuds Cause Hearing Loss


Nearly one in five American teens has some form of hearing loss, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers didn’t put the blame on any one cause, but they did rule out ear infections and exposure to loud noises in the environment as culprits. They also noted that the loss suffered was high frequency hearing loss, which is typically caused by listening to music on earbuds or headphones.


The situation appears to be getting worse. Teens tested from 1988 to 1994 showed a prevalence of 15 percent hearing loss, while teens tested from 2005 to 2006 came in at about 19.5 percent.

High frequency hearing loss affects a person’s ability to pick up specific sounds, such as “s,” “sh,” “f” and “th.” That may not seem significant, but researchers say it can have a big impact on the ability to follow a conversation—or succeed in school.

It’s not hard to identify the problem. Spend a day with just about any teen and, at some point, the ear buds will come out.

It’s true that music on the go has been a fact of life since the Sony Walkman came on the scene in 1979. Those were eventually replaced by portable compact disc players, which were replaced by MP3 players.

But these days our music is on our phones. We’re no longer paying for batteries—and the number of songs we can access is virtually unlimited.

All of which means that today’s teens are listening to more music than ever.

Let’s take a look at the correlation between earbuds and hearing loss. Earbuds sit in the ear canal. That means the sound is close to your inner ear. Anything over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.

The average teen (or young adult) may not be aware of the risk that comes with using ear buds. Here are a few steps that everyone should take to prevent hearing loss:

Adjust your phone so that music can never be played at max volume. On most phones, you can do this by going to settings. Listening to music at max volume for even five minutes can cause damage. Setting your phone at 70 percent of max volume is a good starting point.

Use the 60/60 rule. This means listening to music at 60 percent of max volume and then giving your ears a 60-minute break. Ears that get a rest are less likely to be damaged.

Use headphones instead of earbuds. Noise-cancelling headphones are especially good because they block out the background noise that leads many to crank up the volume.

Remember that hearing loss is like sun damage. It can add up over time until there is a real problem. Nobody should be using ear buds all day long.

Hearing loss can have a big impact on daily life, but loud music is only one of many things that can affect hearing. Contact us today to schedule an appointment if you’re concerned about your hearing.

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