Headphones and other forms of ear plugs are becoming engrained in our day to day life, but are they really safe for our ears. This article should arm you with a few tips on how to effectively use headphones without causing damage to your ears.
Loud noises are known to cause hearing problems. This is the principle by which headphones are measured to cause ear damage. Through high volume and continuous exposure, the sound from your headphone with time may cause some hair cells in the cochlea, which is found in your ear, to bend down. This bending can lead to spouts or periods of impaired hearing, and if exposure to this direct noise from headphones is consistent, the cells will not have a chance to recover and this leads to permanent hearing impairment.
Given the facts stated above, there are a few measures that can be taken by a user to make sure that you are using your headphones in the healthiest way possible. These measures should reduce the risk of ear damage and allow you to create good and healthy habits, in relation to the use of headphones and other forms of earplugs.
Tips on how to use headphones without causing ear damage
- Settle for a lower volume setting
A high volume setting is dangerous to your hearing because headphones have the ability to produce and deliver high sound waves to your eardrums. These sound waves, on reaching our ears, cause eardrums to vibrate at a rate proportional to the strength and intensity of the sound waves. These vibrations, at this rate, are then transmitted further into the ear through a series of small bones, eventually reaching the cochlea. This is an ear chamber that is filled with fluid that vibrates, causing the hairs in the chamber to move and bend. Higher intensity vibrations strain the hairs by causing them to move and bend (fold over) at a high rate, making them lose their sensitivity to sound. The process described is the cause for the apparent temporary hearing loss that happens after exposure to loud noises. This is because these hairs need to take time to recover and regain their original shapes.
Therefore, it is vital to settle for a lower volume setting to reduce the intensity of these vibrations, and reduce the strain on the ear hairs, which should ensure that you so not experience hearing loss; temporary or otherwise. This is the easiest tip there is and it cuts across the board from headphones to normal forms of surround sound like the stereo system or television. It is also notable that there is no cure to hearing damage that is induced I this way, making it very dangerous.
- Have headphone breaks
The cause of damage in your ears due to high volume described above is directly aided by length of exposure. The hairs in your cochlea require a bit of time to recover and go back to their normal shape after exposure to direct sound. Continuous usage of headphones denies them this and is a catalyst for permanent damage to the cochlea, leading to permanent and incurable hearing damage.
Headphone breaks can be taken in various patterns. First, do not use them unless you have to. If you are in a situation, like being home alone, where you can listen to your audio without headphones and without bothering anyone, then do not use them. However, in the case that you need to use them, you can take a 10 minute break after every hour of use, or a 5 minute one every half hour.
There is a rule that combines both reducing the volume and exposure time when using headphones. This rule is the 60/60 one and it states that you should listen to your audio at less than 60 percent of the volume on your device and headphones for 60 minutes, then take a 10 minute break or longer.
- Pick headphones that have noise cancellation
This tip would be particularly helpful to users of headphones in areas where there is loud external noise. Typically, we use headphones to drown out external noises and increase the volume as external noise increases because it affects the clarity of the audio being listened to. The easiest and most effective way to eliminate or reduce this need to increase the volume, is buy headphones that have noise cancellation.
There are two main types of noise cancellation headphones; active noise cancelling headphones and passive noise cancelling ones. Headphones that have active noise cancellation are designed to monitor the sounds in the environment around the user and generate sound waves that cancel out this noise, making the area around the earpiece more silent. On the other hand, passive noise cancellation works by limiting the ear’s exposure to external noise by having a noise insulating design like foam that is high density on the earpiece.
- Pick over-the-ear headphone models
There are two main headphone models; on-the ear models and over-the-ear models. The difference between the two is their method of delivery of sound to the eardrums, which affects how they sound and their implication to the health of your ear. The on-the-ear headphone design works and sounds like an earphone or other such form of ear buds, having a short distance between the speaker and your eardrum, which gives a listening experience that feels unnatural and makes the user more likely to develop ear damage.
The over-the-ear headphone design is highly recommended by both oncologists and audiologists because it works with a higher distance between the speaker and eardrum, resulting in a surround sound effect which lessens the chances of causing ear damage, while giving the user a better listening experience.
Headphones are a great invention, allowing the user to be in their own audio bubble, even in the midst of high external sound. However, it is important to take a few measures to ensure that this comfort does not cause permanent ear damage like lower volume and exposure time, in order to ensure that you enjoy the privacy and audio clarity that headphones give, without being exposed to ear damage.