Hearing loss in young people is an increasingly serious problem nowadays. One in five adolescents suffers from some type of hearing loss, which is a 30% increase compared to the 1990s. It is a growing epidemic and has a lot to do with the increase in the use of headphones harmful and listening to very loud music. Also due to noise pollution in cities. As professionals in the world of sound, we are very aware of hearing health. In this article, we present some simple tips to protect your ears.
The emergence of smartphones in our lives allows us to listen to our favorite music whenever we feel like it. However, many of these devices come with poor-quality in-ear headphones. Did you know that according to statistics they are the worst to take care of our ears? Therefore, it is important that if you use this type of headphones, they are of good quality, like the ones we have selected in this comparison of in-ear music headphones so that they damage your ears as little as possible. If we add poor quality and prolonged use at dangerous volumes, we have a terrible auditory cocktail.
The World Health Organization recently announced that more than 1 billion young people ages 12 to 35 are at risk of deafness from listening to loud music for long periods of time. Worst of all, most people with hearing loss do not receive treatment on time. Fortunately, with a little awareness, up to 60% of cases in young people can be prevented.
What is hearing loss?
It’s basically hearing less than normal. Hearing loss can affect one or both ears and can be classified as mild, moderate, severe, or profound. Hearing loss can be due to many causes: diseases, ear infections, complications in the ear canal, or working in environments with high noise pollution.
However, more and more young people with incipient deafness are coming to the office due to poor habits of using headphones. Worst of all, since deafness is a gradual process, most of us are not aware that we are losing hearing and we let it go until the problem becomes much more serious.
Volumes and exposures that can cause hearing loss
Hearing loss due to noise pollution depends on both the volume (measured in dB) and the duration for which we are exposed to sound. A volume equal to or less than 85 dB is safe, but any higher volume can cause permanent hearing loss according to the duration of exposure to sound:
- At 95 dB we can suffer loss after four hours of exposure a day.
- At 100 dB, the damage occurs after two hours of exposure per day.
- At 105 dB, after one hour of daily exposure.
- At 110 dB we can suffer loss with 30 minutes of daily exposure.
- At 115 dB the damage can occur after 15 minutes of exposure.
- At 120 dB the damage can occur instantly.
Noise pollution is everywhere. Traffic noise is heard at approximately 75 dB, a subway train at 90 dB, a shot at 100 dB, and an airplane at 140 dB. Mobile devices, such as MP3 players or DAPs, can produce sounds greater than 115 dB, the same as we could hear at a King Crimson or Radiohead concert.
What are the best and worst headphones in relation to hearing loss?
Hearing loss can occur from listening to music at excessive volumes and for long periods of time, and this can easily happen with improper use of headphones. The headphones offer very strong and concentrated sound waves to our ears, so they can quickly cause irreversible damage if we exceed 85 dB, the maximum safe volume point.
We’re not saying avoid using headphones at all. Headphones are great to immerse ourselves in the world of music. They allow us to evade and savor our favorite music anywhere and at any time without disturbing anyone. We just have to use them with care. In addition, there are headphones that are safer than others and we can also follow certain tips to avoid problems.
Over Ear Headphones
The circumaural headphones (over-ear) are placed on the head and have comfortable padded cups covering the entire ear. There are two types: closed and open.
The best open-type over-ear headphones generate high-quality sound and you can recognize them because they have some kind of grid from which you can see the drivers that produce the sound. The cups are usually removable and do not trap sound within the space between the drivers and the ear. This means that sound can escape, which helps prevent the music from being loud enough to damage your hearing. However, they are also poor at isolating external noise, something that many users compensate by turning up the volume excessively, thereby increasing the possibility of hearing damage.
The -ear type headphones closed over, as the name suggests, have a solid surface without grids. These types of helmets offer the best noise cancellation on the market. They create a seal that traps sound between the ear and the glasses and does not allow external noise to penetrate into that space. They are the best to prevent hearing loss since the user has total control over the sounds that reach their ears. Closed over-ear headphones allow us to listen to our music at safe volumes since we do not need to isolate ambient noise and turn up the volume.
The -ear headphones in, also called – ear, helmets are popular because they offer music sound quite powerful and are very portable. In-ear headphones have drivers that adjust to the ear canal. This is dangerous as it places the drivers closer to the eardrum. If we use the above 85 dB they can easily cause hearing damage. The good thing is that they isolate external noise quite well, which means they can be used at safe volumes, but over-ear headphones are safer to avoid hearing loss.
Tips to avoid hearing loss with headphones:
Attention when choosing headphones
The use of headphones has increased dramatically in recent years. They are very versatile and we can connect them to any device: smartphones, computers, tablets, TVs, iPods, MP3 players… They are found everywhere and are used by people of all ages.
In-ear headphones are the most popular. They are compact, lightweight, and can be very inexpensive. The problem is that the earbuds that come with many mobile devices are of terrible quality and are not designed to fit properly in your ear, which means that they can leak sound and this causes people to use dangerous volumes to compensate.
In the case of headphones, the famous phrase that one size fits all ( one size fits all ) is a big lie. The best thing to do to protect your ears is to find a pair of headphones that are comfortable for you and that fit your ears properly. You can choose to try several helmets in specialized stores to find out which models can fit you well. The best in-ear headphones can come with different-sized ear pads to fit your ears, while over-ears are very comfortable, tend to offer better sound, and are much safer.
Limit exposure time and volume
The World Health Organization recommends not listening to music for more than an hour a day through our headphones. Although 85 dB is considered a safe volume level, after several hours of daily use we can damage our ears. It is best to follow the WHO recommendation to let our ears rest a bit.
Many specialists recommend following a rule known as 60:60: limit your exposure to sounds through headphones to 60 minutes per day while using 60% of the capacity of your music player.
Using headphones with good noise cancellation helps you to be able to listen to music at much lower levels. This is also a factor that can help those users who want to listen to music for long periods of time.
Types of hearing problems related to headphones and exposure to music or very loud noises
The type of hearing loss associated with the use of headphones and the exposure of loud noises, such as those found in discos, concerts, etc., is known as hearing loss or partial deafness. It affects the ear to different degrees:
- Mild hearing loss causes a loss of 20 to 40 dB and makes it difficult to hear distant voices.
- Average lowers normal capacity by 40 to 70 dB, making it difficult to hear conversations.
- The severe one generates losses of 70-90 dB and only allows you to hear very loud voices and at a short distance.
- Profound hearing loss causes a hearing loss of 90 dB. Only very loud ambient noises and sounds can be heard at this grade.
Hearing loss can be conductive, sensorineural, or mixed. The term conductive hearing loss is used to refer to hearing loss in the middle and outer ear, which limits the sound waves going to the inner ear. It affects all frequencies uniformly and can be treated with special hearing aids or medical treatments. Sensorineural refers to sensory loss in the inner ear and damage to the auditory nerves. It is irreversible and affects some frequencies more than others. It can be treated, depending on the level of damage, with cochlear implants or hearing aids. The mixed is a combination of both.
How to detect hearing loss?
Hearing loss caused by improper use of headphones and noise pollution is gradual and cumulative, making it difficult to detect in time. The easiest way to find out if you suffer from hearing loss is to take an online test, such as those offered by Amplifon and Audifon, or have tonal audiometry. Audiometry is a clinical test that can detect if you have any type of hearing loss. If you or a young relative experience any of the following symptoms, we recommend that you quickly see a doctor who specializes in the ears (otolaryngologist):
- If you feel ringing, hissing, or ringing in your ears.
- Difficulty understanding conversations in noisy places.
- If you hear muffled or muffled sounds.
- If you need to listen to the radio or TV at very high volumes.
Treatments for hearing loss
Unfortunately, hearing loss caused by exposure to very loud sounds or noises is irreversible. If we already suffer from severe or profound hearing loss, we can use cochlear implants or special hearing aids for deafness. These amplify sounds and help us hear better, but we cannot reverse the damage to our ears. This is why prevention is so important.
How can we prevent hearing loss from noise pollution?
Hearing loss caused by noise pollution can be prevented in most cases. These are some of the indications you can follow in order not to suffer from hearing loss. We have already named you some, but it does not hurt to repeat them:
Ear plugs and ear protectors
If you work in a noisy environment and must continually expose yourself to dangerous sound levels, we recommend that you wear earplugs or ear protectors. There are many comfortable and affordable models on the market, from protective headphones for people who are exposed to attempted noise at work to earplugs for concerts and any worker, which can protect your ears in environments such as concerts, festivals, noisy bars, etc.
Get a suitable headset
Over-ear headphones provide the best safety for your ears, as they stay further away from the ear canal. In addition, they are more comfortable. If you frequent noisy environments and can’t hear your music, don’t turn up the volume. A pair of noise-canceling headphones are an ideal choice to protect your ears and isolate yourself from outside noise. There are many excellent models on the market, such as the Bose 700 or the Sony WH-1000XM4.
Control volume and exposure
Most MP3 players and smartphones emit very loud sounds, and as we already know, hearing loss caused by prolonged exposure to dangerous volume is irreversible. To avoid this we can follow the 60/60 rule. These numbers indicate that we should limit ourselves to 60% of our equipment volume for 60 minutes a day.
Remember to rest your ears and maintain a safe volume. If you use your players at 80 dB, try not to exceed 40 hours a week. If you use them at 89 dB, do not go beyond 5 hours a week. Plays at 95 dB should be limited to 15 minutes per day.
Annual hearing exams
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, try to go to a specialized center as quickly as possible. As we said, hearing loss or partial deafness caused by noise pollution is irreversible, so a timely review can save you a lot of problems in the future.
You can take a free online hearing test to make sure your ears are working well, but if there is a history of deafness in your family, or if you work in environments with excessive noise, it is advisable to go for a hearing check at any medical center once per year. If you have already turned 50, it is also necessary that you attend at least once a year.
If you are looking for information about headphones, speakers, or any sound equipment, you can check our website BestXpot. There we write in-depth reviews about the best models on the market.