Whether it is for a remote business meeting, virtual classroom setting or entertainment during your workout — headphones and earbuds are part of our daily life.
They help us stay connected and entertained while ensuring that others don’t get bothered by the sounds we heard.
Especially children who are learning from home may have more exposure than usual to earbuds or headphones.
But despite all convenience, the increased utility also raises the question of whether headphones are safe.
According to Cedilia Silva, family nurse practitioner at the AdventHealth Family Medicine Clinic in Harker Heights, healthy headphone use exists. You just have to follow a few simple rules.
The inner ear is very sensitive to sounds it perceives. Delicate hair cells transmit sounds from the ears back to the brain, where they are processed. Excessive noise can cause permanent damage to these cells, which will interrupt the sound transmission mechanism.
While headphones are part of modern society, they can damage your hearing when you use them at a high-volume level. Once you experience any level of hearing loss, the damage is permanent.
One of the main factors to prevent permanent hearing loss is the proper regulation of volume.
While adults can easily regulate their headphones’ volume, parents should be diligent when it comes to their childrens’ devices.
“Noise levels are measured in decibels,” Silva said. “Sounds over 85 decibels can be harmful when associated with long exposure.”
A comparison of daily sounds helps to understand how loud 85 decibels is. A sound chart provided by the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention shows decibel levels of everyday sources. The higher the number, the louder the sound.
Whispering is listed at 30 decibels, normal conversation at 60 decibels and city traffic at 85 decibels. Any sound over 85 decibels can be harmful, especially if you’re exposed to it for a long time.
However, most headphones can go up to 100 to 110 decibels when listening to music on full volume.
Listening to loud music through earbuds and headphones is one of the biggest dangers to your hearing.
Noise-canceling earphones or headphones that block external noise can help minimize actual noise levels.
“A person tends to increase the volume if external noise is competing with their device,” Silva said.
However, those devices are not an option for everyone. Especially for runners and cyclists, noise-canceling headphones are not safe as they also block traffic sounds.
In addition to volume, the duration of sound exposure is also an important factor that contributes to possible noise-induced hearing damage.
“Sixty minutes at a comfortable level is the recommendation from experts at Harvard University,” Silva said.
While there is no specific age when starting to use headphones is safe, the ideal age would be when a child is old enough to tell comfortable noise levels.
“Knowing that a child has a smaller ear canal, the volume for an adult may be too loud for a child,” Silva said.
It is essential to educate your child about proper headphone use. It can also help to buy specific children’s headphones that include a volume limit to minimize the risk of hearing loss.