The problem with headphones: protecting your hearing in the age of constant connectivity

In today’s world we are the most connected yet disconnected when it comes to our interactions. Although the Internet and social media allow constant connectivity, they also allow us to retreat into our own world. Headphones take us in further, blocking out the outside world as we create our own space featuring our own theme music. Think of any public transportation commute or office cubicle and you’re bound to see ear buds galore.

While technology has evolved to improve the quality and convenience of listening to music on the go, it’s important to consider ways to protect your hearing. Noise induced hearing loss is still one of the most common factors leading to irreparable hearing damage. Headphones or ear buds can also be damaging in other ways.

Situational Awareness

Let’s go back to the oasis we retreat to when we’re listening to music through headphones. It doesn’t matter how many people you’re surrounded by, you’ve created your own world and “private” space controlling what sounds you take in. That is until a car with screeching tires comes within a few feet because you couldn’t hear its horn blaring. While some credit headphones with helping us focus, they aren’t particularly helpful when it’s critical to be aware of your surroundings. Try reducing the volume or removing headphones completely when necessary.

Potentially Excessive Exposure to Loud Sound

Did you know you should only listen to music at 60 percent of the maximum volume? This is because many music players can reach 100 decibels or more. This is problematic for a few reasons. Sounds over 85 decibels can be harmful, particularly if you’re exposed to them for long periods of time. To put this into context, normal conversations occur at about 60 decibels and fireworks are about 150 decibels.

Now do you need to toss all your headphones in the trash? No you don’t. However, awareness is the first step toward prevention when it comes to hearing loss. See an audiologist if you experience ringing in your ears after listening to audio using headphones. This could be a sign of high frequency hearing loss or the beginning of noise induced hearing loss.

Protect yourself and your hearing by keeping these factors in mind. We all can use a moment of escape and headphones can be great for that purpose. Just keep the volume in mind and avoid completely tuning out.