Will blaring music really damage your ears?
It may sound like one of those vague threats that your mother used to make but listening to loud music really can leave you suffering from permanent hearing loss. And not to sound like your mum, but turn that music down!
The sheer volume of digital devices in our lives means that we probably use headphones more than any previous generation. You might use them with your computer at work, when listening to music or watching videos on your phone, or with your iPod in the gym.
Whatever your use, the constant sound has obviously increased the risk that we will damage our hearing with excessive volume on our headphones.
So what is the science behind loud music and the loss of hearing?
The dangers of earphones
The bad news is that listening to loud noise or music through earbuds can damage the tiny hair calls in your inner ear that recognise sounds and carry them to your brain. Over time, this can cause permanent loss of hearing.
Playing music through headphones at the maximum volume can expose you to around 95 to 105 decibels and you could be causing permanent damage after just 15 minutes of listening.
To put that into context, a rock concert can generate around 110 to 120 decibels so it’s the equivalent to having a rock gig right inside your ears.
What to do:
Scientists recommend the 60/60 rule: keep your volume under 60% and only listen to earphones for 60 minutes a day.
People think that bigger headphones cause more noise but they’re actually better than earbuds for your ears. They cancel out background noise so you can play music at a lower volume, which reduces the potential damage being done to your hearing.
Loud concerts or clubs can cause damage
Anyone who has left a concert or a club with ringing in their ears or temporary deafness can’t really pretend to be surprised to hear that your ears can get damaged at a gig.
Concerts or clubs can expose you to extended periods of very loud noise so it’s no surprise that it can cause long-term damage. With noise levels reaching 120 decibels, you could actually be damaging your ears within the first minute of the show.
Frequent concert goers can even develop conditions like tinnitus, a constant buzzing in your ears.
It sounds almost counterintuitive but experts have recommended that people wear earplugs to gigs to avoid damaging their hearing. It may not seem very cool but neither is living with a high-pitched noise that won’t go away.
What to do:
Custom-made earplugs are obviously ideal but there are other steps you can take to limit the side effects. Stand at least 10 feet away from speakers and rest your ears for at least 24 hours after extended exposure to loud music.
Try to limit conversations at noisy gigs as shouting into someone’s ear can also damage a person’s ears.
What are the warning signs of hearing damage?
There are a number of warning signs that can tell you that you may have damaged your hearing.
You may experience ringing in the ears or a heightened sensitivity to loud noises. Other signs include hearing the phone better with one ear than the other and needing to turn the volume up higher on electrical devices like a TV or radio.
If people suddenly start to sound as if they’re mumbling or talking too quickly, it could be a warning sign. There’s always the possibility that they are hard to understand but, if it’s a recurring problem and you’re the only one who notices, it could be a sign that you need a check-up.
What to do:
The first thing to do is to see a doctor. If it turns out that you have sustained some damage, start wearing earplugs in noisy environments. It may seem a bit late in the day but it will prevent further hearing loss.
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