The Dangers of Wearing Headphones

By Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D. –

The Dangers of Wearing HeadphonesNoise-induced hearing loss can result from a variety of common occurrences, from single loud noises such as a firecracker or gunshot, or from a prolonged exposure to noises. Because Baby Boomers are the first generation to grow up listening to stereos and going to concerts, they are currently experiencing, at an earlier age than generations preceding them, more noise-induced hearing loss.

And the results of changes in music listening habits don’t end with Baby Boomers. Today’s youth may experience widespread hearing loss at an even younger age due to their prolonged use of headphones to listen to personal listening devices at loud levels that are unsafe.

One in Four Teens at Risk of Early Hearing Loss
The findings of a new study conducted by the Tel Aviv University indicate that the teenage habit of listening to iPods, MP3 players and other music listening devices at high volumes puts one in four teens at risk of early hearing loss. Participants in the study indicated that their preferred listening level is 82 decibels in quiet and 89 decibels in the presence of background noise, levels that could put them at risk of permanent noise-induced hearing loss according to occupational damage risk criteria established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 1998.

So How Loud is Too Loud?
Let’s start with the basics. Sound intensity is measured in decibels (dB) and humans can hear sounds that range from zero to 140 dB. As a point of reference, a normal conversation is about 60 dB. Regular exposure for prolonged periods to sound levels above 85 dB puts anyone at risk for permanent noise-induced hearing loss. The risk is proportional to the duration of the exposure. It is recommended that for every 5 dB increase in volume, the maximum recommended exposure time should be cut in half!

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While an increase in awareness of what constitutes a safe listening environment can help somewhat, Professor Chava Muchnik of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Communication Disorders also recommends that manufacturers adopt European standards that limit the output of personal listening devices to 100 decibels. Currently some models can reach 129 decibels.

The Dangers of Headphone Use
The dangers of headphone use do not end with the risk of potential damage to hearing. Headphones can also cause serious injuries to pedestrians who are wearing them. Research conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore reveal that since 2004, serious injuries to pedestrians listening to headphones have more than tripled, indicating a risk not unlike that of texting or talking on a cell phone while driving.

The Bottom Line
The bottom line is this. Lower the volume or simply take the headphones off. Give your ears the rest they need!

To learn more about the dangers of headphone use or to schedule an appointment to have your hearing evaluated, please call Advanced Hearing Solutions at 941-474-8393 or visit us online at

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