We all know that listening to anything at a loud volume has the potential to damage your ears and cause hearing loss. So we already know to use earplugs when we’re at gigs and festivals. But how much damage can your DJ Headphones, Studio Headphones, or even casual earbuds really be doing to your ears?
In this article, we explain how headphones can cause hearing loss and go over 5 things you can implement with your beloved headphones to make sure you’re protecting your ears as much as possible.
- How do headphones cause hearing loss?
- What can you do to protect your hears?
- What if your ears are already damaged?
How do headphones cause hearing loss?
I don’t have to tell you that loud music can damage your ears. But how much damage could your headphones be causing you? And how loud can you turn up the volume before you run the risk of hearing loss?
Whether you’re a DJ on stage, mixing in the studio, or just casually listening; everybody owns a pair of headphones and probably spends a substantial amount of time wearing them. However, more and more people are showing signs of noise-induced hearing loss and many of these cases can be attributed to one culprit, headphones. As a result, experts are concerned we’re creating a prematurely deaf generation of Australians!
As audio professionals, we have to be even more careful with our ears. So how do you keep yourself safe from hearing loss? The key thing to consider here is volume! Headphones have the potential to produce some extremely loud levels of sound. Thus, given that the sound is played so close to your ears, its no surprise they can cause some serious damage.
It works like this. When the soundwaves from your headphones hit your ears, it causes your eardrums to vibrate. This vibration then gets sent to the inner ear where it reaches the cochlea. Then, the thousands of tiny hair cells begin to move, and the louder the sound, the more they move.
Listening too loud
By listening to sounds that are too loud, your hair cells start to lose their sensitivity. As a result, your hair cells have the potential to bend or fold over which can then cause the sensation of temporary hearing loss. That’s why after you’ve been at a loud concert or festival you might experience hard of hearing for a period of time afterward. Your hair cells will take some time to recover after being exposed to such noise. However, in some cases, the cells never recover and might be too damaged to function normally. It’s then almost impossible for your ears to fully recover!
Listening too long
But what if you don’t listen to your headphones at full volume, is hearing loss out of the question? Not necessarily! Headphones don’t have to be extremely loud to do damage to your ears, even just listening at a moderate volume can affect your hearing. That’s because your ears are not only damaged by how loud the noise is, but also the length of exposure.
What can I do to protect my ears?
Lower The Volume
Yep, it’s that easy! Your ears are precious, so you want to protect them as much as you can. If that means turning down the volume coming through your headphones, then so be it. Try to do the same when you’re listening to other audio sources as well whether its watching TV or listening through your speakers. Because the number one cause of noise-induced hearing loss is due to exposure to loud noise.
Noise Cancelling Headphones
Most people find themselves blasting the volume on their headphones in order to drown out surrounding noises and distractions. To get around this, one solution is to get yourself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. This way you’re successfully blocking out unwanted external sounds while being able to enjoy your music at a lower volume without any distractions.
Although noise-cancelling headphones might not always suit specific applications, they’re a great choice if you have the option available. If you’re just looking for general listening, I’d recommend picking up a set of Nuraphones. These headphones are not only noise-cancelling, but they feature innovative technology that learns and adapts to your unique way of hearing. So they’re guaranteed to sound great as well.
Headphones Over Earbuds
Headphones vs Earbuds or Earphones. The term headphones is often used quite interchangeably and covers just about everything that delivers sound directly to your ears. But headphones and earbuds aren’t technically the same thing.
When we’re talking earbuds, we’re referring to the small silicone or plastic earphones that fit snugly in each ear whether that be a set of in-ear-monitors, Airpods, or just the pair that came included with your phone.
On the other hand, headphones refer to the kind of devices that sit over each ear and cover your entire ears. With over-ear headphones, you’re slightly increasing the distance between your eardrums and the speakers. Therefore, you’re lowering the chance of suffering any hearing loss. The difference in distance between a pair of over-ear headphones and earbuds might be minimal, but it can make all the difference in the long run.
Take a break
If you insist on listening at high volumes, and you don’t have access to noise-cancelling or over-ear headphones; another way you can protect your ears is by reducing your listening time. Like we touched on before, it’s not only the volume that affects your hearing but the amount of time exposed as well.
A good rule of thumb is to follow the 60/60 rule. Meaning, you shouldn’t listen any louder than 60% volume for any longer than 60 minutes at a time. To be super safe, I’d recommend taking at least a 5 minute break every half an hour. Or a 10-minute break every hour.
Finally, the last tip I’m going to give you is to set a custom volume limit on your listening device. This might not be applicable when you’re DJing or producing. But if you’re like most, you’ll be using your phone for much of your daily & casual music and podcast listening.
So take advantage of the settings on your iPhone that allow you to set a custom volume limit. Head to Settings > Music > Volume Limit to set a max volume for your listening. So even when you turn the volume all the way up, you won’t be surpassing that max level. Meaning you’ll be less tempted to raise the volume to dangerous levels.
What if your ears are already damaged?
Unfortunately, if your ears are already damaged from headphone induced noise, they may never heal completely. Because when hearing damage starts to creep in, you’re starting an irreversible journey that will affect you for life. This is worrying enough for your average music fan or nightclub goer. But if you’re a musician, DJ, or audio professional, hearing loss is all the more terrifying because you rely on your hearing to do your job. So once you start doing damage to your ears, you’ll also be putting your income in jeopardy.
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