Headphones and Hearing loss
In today’s technology rich world, headphones/earphones are a must have item in our daily lives. We use them in countless situations including: commuting to work or school, exercise, meetings, phone conversations and much more. However what many of us don’t realise is that if used incorrectly headphones can damage our hearing.
Current research shows that 1 in 6 Australians have a hearing loss and that number is expected to increase to 1 in 4 Australians by 2050. Whilst headphones are not the only contributing factor to hearing loss, it has shown that chronic noise exposure via headphones are indeed a key risk factor.
It is assumed that our audio devices or headphones are safe to use and have in-built protection to prevent any harm to our ears, but that’s not the case. So what can we do to protect our ears?
Firstly it is important to understand that there are two important factors that determine if hearing damage occurs which is the ‘Intensity of the volume’ and ‘Duration of listening’. For example, most headphones are capable of going above 100dB which is equivalent to the loudness of an ambulance siren. This level sound can cause irreversible hearing damage after just 15 minutes of listening. In comparison 85dB which is equivalent to heavy city traffic is safe to listen to for 8 hours.
Additionally, there are some simple tips we can adapt into our lives including:
- Adjust the settings on your smartphone: Although headphones are able to go much louder, if you limit the level on your smartphone then you are still able to protect your ears.• For Apple devices: Settings -> Sounds & Haptics -> Headphone safety -> adjust slider to limit decibels
• For Samsung devices: Settings -> Sounds and vibration -> Volume -> Select the three vertical dots in the upper right corner -> Turn on Media volume limiter -> Adjust the slider to the left and make sure you stay within the blue area.
- Use noise cancelling headphones: The most common reason why many of us increase the volume on our headphones is to drown out the background noise. Therefore by using noise cancelling headphones you will be able to block out the background noise without having to increase the volume too high.
- Take breaks: Similar to how we give our eyes a rest after staring at our computer screens, it is also recommended to give our ears are rest after 1 hour of headphone usage.
- Try a noise diet: Similar to how we monitor what we eat and how often, it is also recommended to keep track of how often we use headphones or listen to any loud noises. In doing so you can make an effort to try and limit your exposure where possible.
- Know your benchmark volume: To determine this, wear your headphones in a quiet room/area with someone talking to you approximately 1 meter away. Then set the volume at a level where you can still comfortably hear them. Ideally, this should be set to 60% of maximum volume.