Hearing Loss and Headphones – Is Anyone Listening?
As a parent, do you often find yourself asking your teenagers to remove their headphones so you can speak to them? You may want to consider doing it even more often. According to a study by the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion teens and young adults are at risk of hearing loss, which many experts believe is due, in part, to the increased use of headphones. James E. Foy, DO, an osteopathic pediatrician from Vallejo, California, explains what you can do to minimize your child’s risk of hearing loss.
If you can’t hear what’s going on around you when using headphones, turn down the volume.
“Listening through headphones at a high volume for extended periods of time can result in lifelong hearing loss for children and teens,” says Dr. Foy. “Even a mild hearing loss due to excessive noise could lead to developmental delays in speech and language.”
How Can I Prevent Hearing Loss?
Dr. Foy offers a number of suggestions to protect your hearing:
- Follow the 60/60 rule. This means you should use listening devices at levels up to 60% of maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes a day.
- Decrease the amount of time you listen to music when you increase the volume.
- If you listen at top volume, limit yourself to five minutes a day.
- Use larger headphones that rest over the ear rather than using earbuds.
What Are the Signs of Hearing Loss?
“The type of hearing loss due to headphone use is typically gradual, cumulative and without obvious warning signs,” explains Dr. Foy. “A hearing test and a medical examination are the only ways to truly diagnose hearing damage.”
“The type of hearing loss caused by overexposure to very loud noise is irreversible.”
However, if you or your child experiences any of the following symptoms, Dr. Foy recommends a visit to a physician immediately.
- Ringing, roaring, hissing or buzzing in the ear
- Difficulty understanding speech in noisy places or places with poor acoustics
- Muffled sounds and a feeling that your ear is plugged
- Listening to the TV or radio at a higher volume than in the past
How Loud is Too Loud?
“The maximum volume of most MP3 players can produce sounds up to 105 decibels, equivalent to a sound level you’d experience attending a sporting event or using a table saw. At that level, hearing loss can begin after just 15 minutes,” warns Dr. Foy.
“I stress to my patients and their parents that if you can’t hear anything going on around you when listening to headphones, the decibel level is too high,” he says.
Dr. Foy advises that people should not exceed 60% of maximum volume when listening through headphones.
What is the Treatment for Hearing Loss?
“Unfortunately, the type of hearing loss caused by overexposure to very loud noise is irreversible, making prevention paramount,” says Dr. Foy. “Hearing aids and implants can help in amplifying sounds and making it easier to hear, but they are merely compensating for the damaged or nonworking parts of the ear.”