In this blog we would like to discuss a topic that is particularly relevant today with the rising popularity of extremely powerful headphones. It is important to realize that while headphones can bring your favorite music to you in a place where it would not traditionally be possible, they can be permanently damaging to your hearing at the same time. We will begin with a brief introduction of what acoustic decibels are, as well as the thresholds where hearing loss can occur.
A decibel is used in acoustics as a unit of sound pressure level. On the decibel scale, near total silence is considered to be 0 dB. A sound 10 times more powerful is 10 dB. A sound 100 times more powerful than near total silence is 20 dB. A sound 1,000 times more powerful than near total silence is 30 dB, and so on. According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), prolonged exposure to any noise at or above 85 dB can cause gradual hearing loss. Also, regular exposure of 110 dB for more than one minute can cause permanent hearing loss. These numbers are important because headphones such as Beats by Dre can be cranked up to 115 dB which would put you into a situation where permanent hearing loss could occur in one minute.
Hearing loss is a very serious thing and can negatively affect your life in many ways. Imagine a coworker or peer trying to have a conversation with you but every other sentence you have to ask them to repeat them self. Or trying to have an important conversation with a client on the phone and you simply cannot hear them. These real life examples offer just a glimpse into what life could be like with noise induced hearing loss. Studies have linked hearing loss to a number of things such as irritability, anger, stress, and depression. Hearing loss can also lead to reduced job performance and earning power. There can be a snowball effect with hearing loss where individuals experiencing it isolate themselves due to fear of constantly either not knowing what is going on or having to continuously ask people to repeat themselves. As you can see, hearing loss is no joking matter and can negatively affect your life in many ways.
There are ways that you can protect yourself or your children from hearing loss relating to headphone use. Expert Sharon A. Sandridge, PhD, Director of Clinical Services in Audiology at Cleveland Clinic suggests that you should listen to your headphones at eighty percent volume for a maximum of ninety minutes as a general rule of thumb. Another suggestion is the sixty-sixty rule where sixty minutes of listening at sixty percent volume is recommended. To demonstrate how important it is to be safe while using your headphones, the EU introduced a mandatory safety limit on all personal music players of 85 dB in 2012. Users receive a warning if they want to make the volume louder, but are not prohibited from overriding the control and increasing the volume to 100 dB.
Noise induced hearing loss from headphones is very serious and can begin within a minute of using your headphones. If you are planning on getting yourself or your children headphones for their birthday or as a holiday gift, it is important to educate them about the proper way to use headphones. Listening to headphones at eighty percent volume for no longer than ninety minutes is a good way to start, or by observing the sixty-sixty rule. At the end of the day it is important to remember that noise-induced hearing loss is very serious and the only way to prevent it is to control time and volume. You only get one set of ears, and damage done by headphones at extreme volumes can be permanent.