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Listening Habits to Keep You Hearing Loud and Clear

Whether at the gym, grocery store or on a work call, you most likely have worn earbuds or know someone who has. Despite being very common, most people are unaware of the dangers of using earbuds at a too-loud volume or for extended periods of time. Our audiologists encourage you to use your headphones and earbuds safely and correctly to preserve and protect your hearing.

The Dangers of Earbuds

Earbuds sit closer to your ear canal than over-the-ear headphones, which makes them more prone to causing hearing damage if used at a too-loud volume for too long. Listening to music too loud and for long periods can increase your chances of noise-induced hearing loss, which 40 million Americans suffer from. This can also lead to an increased chance of developing tinnitus. Studies show that those with hearing loss are twice as likely to have tinnitus compared to those with normal hearing. “Tinnitus is a ringing or whistling sound in someone’s ears that only they can hear,” explains Dr. Sarah Merrell, an audiologist at Harbin Clinic Audiology Rome and Cartersville. “There are many factors that can lead to or result in tinnitus, but noise-induced hearing loss is one of the more common ones.”

Safer Alternatives

While you should be cautious with volume levels when listening to music in any form, over-the-ear headphones can provide slightly more safety than earbuds. Since headphones sit on top of your ear, they create a buffer between the noise and your ear. With headphones, you can safely listen at a louder volume than you could with earbuds—but audiologists still recommend only using up to 70% of the volume capacity.

Earbud Safety

Sarah Merrell, AuD, CCC-A

If it’s too difficult for you to part with your earbuds, there are ways you can use them safely to ensure you aren’t continuing to cause damage. Audiologists recommend using the 60/60 rule while wearing earbuds. This means to only use earbuds for 60 minutes at a time and at 60% capacity. This prevents you from too-loud listening levels and long periods of noise exposure. Investing in noise-canceling earbuds can also help prevent further damage. By eliminating background noise, you can listen at a lower volume, which reduces the chance of worsening hearing loss, damage or tinnitus. You can also use noise-isolating headphones, which fit like a seal over your ears and physically block out background noises.

Overall, headphones and earbuds don’t cause hearing loss or tinnitus when used correctly, but using them incorrectly can quickly lead to developing these conditions. “Being cautious about listening levels and the length of noise exposure are two easy ways to protect your ears,” explains Dr. Merrell. “Understanding your audiological health is an integral part of overall wellness, so taking care of it should be a top priority.” 

If you’re experiencing symptoms of hearing loss or would like to get your hearing checked, schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified audiologists at Harbin Clinic Audiology Calhoun, Cartersville or Rome.

Published October 26, 2022