We have a love-hate relationship with technology. Technology has given us gadgets that have now become a necessity in our lives but pose great risks to our health. One example of such a gadget could be headphones. From watching our favorite movies to morning walks to working out in the gym, we are incomplete without having a pair of high-quality headphones.
However, as the excess of everything is bad, wearing headphones for prolonged time throughout the day also posits serious health hazards. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about a billion people from young populations worldwide are at severe risk of developing hearing loss due to unsafe habits of using headphones. Common sense also indicates that constantly having loud volumes of music or anything you are listening to through headphones can do some damage to your ears.
The Real Danger
If you think you are tired of worrying sick about what your teen is listening through the headphones he never takes off, it is not only the content you need to worry about but also long exposures to high volume. Would you ever, in your sane mind, go near an amplifier and press your ears to the speakers for long durations? Of course not!
There is a huge difference between the decibels produced by an amplifier and headphones; however, the analogy is just there to make you realize how dangerous it is to continuously expose your ears to loud volumes through headphones. Besides the loud volume, the headphones also contain germs, which they contract by being placed at various places. You never know how many germs your headphones or earbuds have accumulated, and then unknowingly, you put them on your ears. Just imagine how hazardous this would be?
How is the Damage Done?
To understand how loud volumes via headphones are a grave risk for our ear’s health, it is important to understand what happens in the ear when you listen to something. Sound from our headphones reaches to our ears in the form of sound waves – which, as a result, vibrate our eardrum. This vibration is then sent and distributed to our ears’ inner area through small bones leading to the cochlea, a part of the inner ear that has fluid.
It also has a lot of tiny hairs that move due to vibration from the eardrum. The strength of the vibrations depends on how loud the sound is. The tiny hair in the inner ear are susceptible to every vibration produced. Thus, long hours of headphones with loud volume result in compromised sensitivity of these hair. It is quite possible that this lost sensitivity never recovers, and the damage becomes permanent, resulting in hearing loss.
Health Risks of Using Headphones for Prolonged Times
1. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NHL)
This is one of the most harmful effects of listening to loud volumes through headphones. It is important to note that this hearing loss is not only due to listening to loud volumes but also longer durations of using headphones.
It is a condition wherein there is a constant electrical noise that the patients complain about. This happens due to damage in the hair cells present in the cochlea, which produces a ringing or roaring noise in the ear.
This is a condition that co-exists with tinnitus, about more than half of the people who complain. About a ringing or buzzing in their ears develop high sensitivity to normal surrounding sounds.
4. Hearing Loss
Exposure to loud volumes results in the deformation of the hair cells. The hair can bend too much and get damaged severely, leading to temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Another very common health hazard of headphones is dizziness. High levels of pressure on the ears and ear canal also manifest in dizziness.
6. Ear Infections
Earphones are meant to be worn as close to the ears as possible. So, it is highly probable that they block the ear canal, implying that the passage of air in the ear is restricted, resulting in an increased risk of ear infections. Excessive use of headphones also enhances the chances of bacterial growth.
If you happen to share your headphones with others, the chances of bacterial infection increase even more as you can take the other person’s bacteria to your ears when you share.
7. Ear Wax
Prolonged headphone usage is also linked to excessive ear wax production, an inviting ground for tinnitus, and various ear infections.
8. Impact on the brain
In addition to ears, our brain is also harmfully impacted by the prolonged use of headphones. Headphones give off electromagnetic waves, which have a direct impact on our brain in the long run. Loud volumes have high decibels, which are proved to negatively impact the insulation of the nerve fibers. Thus, loud noises damage the fibers that make your brain and ears work in unison.
What to Do?
Here are a few tips on how to cut down on this damaging habit of listening to high volumes using your headphones.
- Keep the volume in moderation.
- One way to make sure you are not crossing damaging levels of the volume is to see if the people around you can hear the sound from your headphones. If they can hear the sound outside your headphones, then you are probably damaging your ears.
- Go old-school, and instead of the small earbuds, get the big round headphones. These are probably lesser of the two evils as they are not inserted in the ear canal.
- Prefer noise-cancellation headphones over others. These headphones tone down the outside surrounding noises so that you do not need to up the volume to listen to something.
- Clean and sanitize your headphones periodically so that there is no bacterial built-up.
- The most important one is to take breaks. Not every bit of what you are listening to needs to be listened to in high volumes. Give your ears a break and when your favorite part of the song is over, turn the volume down.
- Age restrictions are also very important. Do not let young children listen to loud music on headphones for a long time. Give them breaks and discourage the use of headphones in young children if possible.
Everything in our body works in synchronization with others. If you think it is only hearing that is compromised by exposure to high volumes for long times, you could not be more wrong. Our hearing is importantly related to numerous other body organs and functions, such as our overall mental health and brain functions. Therefore, it is utterly necessary to analyze the usage of headphones in our lives and manage it properly.