Earbuds causing early hearing damage

Earbuds causing early hearing damage

Modern technologies are having an unknown damaging effect on peoples hearing. Today nearly everyone has some form of music listening device, whether that be mobile phones or IPods, everyone has access to portable music. The use of these devices is often accompanied by headphones or ear buds. A recent article has highlighted that the damage presented by the use of ear buds in particular, is leading to hearing loss in people a lot younger than normally expected.

We all listen to music, especially when travelling or when we are trying to block out the sound of the guy on the train who is on his phone, informing everyone on the train about his escapades the night before.  The issue isn’t that were listening to music but instead how loud we are listening to it. Firstly the traditional headphones that resembled something from an air traffic control room are now in decline. Instead people are turning to ear buds that are more discrete and go completely into the ear. The distribution of music (sound) to the ears is now more direct and focused than previous equipment offered.

Doctors have noted that this is leading to permanent hearing loss in 40 and 50 year olds. Dr. Robert Treptow a Marshfield Clinic audiologist commented with the following “We are seeing people in general as young as their 40s or 50s that have hearing loss that we would have seen in the past not reach that until the age of 60s, 70s”. This comment is further reinforced with the general age of people who suffer from work related hearing loss who present symptoms later life such as the 60’s.

It is noted in the article that there is two issues causing the hearing damage-

1) The length of time music is listened to

2) How the music is directly listened to

The level of the sound listened to is also an issue. People are listening to their music at levels higher than 85 decibels. 85 decibels is the limit of the sound levels before hearing damage begins. There is ways to combat this issue by using the default volume setting on the device you are using. Many devices such as IPhone have this as standard. You can also set warning levels so that the device notifies you if you exceed the level set.

Dr Treptow’s following comment highlights the consequences of ignoring this issue,

When I see patients in their 30s and 40s who have hearing loss from loud music, concerts, car stereos, they expect to get their ear cleaned, and to hear fine and when I tell them they have permanent hearing loss from the sounds they’re exposed to, they’re usually surprised and disappointed to hear. There’s no way to fix that,”

[1] “SPECIAL REPORT: Deafening Decibles: Impact of Earbuds”, Hannah Anderson, http://www.wsaw.com/home/headlines/SPECIAL-REPORT-Deafening-Decibles-Earbuds-Cause-Hearing-Loss-281427971.html, WASW.com
[2] “Earbuds’ impact on hearing”, CBS news, http://www.wcax.com/story/27270699/earbuds-impact-on-hearing