March 3, 2022
Listening to music is everyone’s passion. We live in an era of technology and therefore are accessible to gadgets that deliver high quality music. Unfortunately, while growing up the younger generations are always discouraged to use Earphones/headphones or to stop listening to loud music because it damages ears, and they have been annoyed at being asked to do so. Thus, making one curious to know if “listening to music can cause hearing issues” was true or just another myth!
Exposure to any loud sound is a potential risk to our hearing health, including loud music. But this mainly depends on two important factors. That is, the loudness of the sound and the time you spend listening to it. If the volume of the music is louder, listening to it even for a shorter duration can damage hearing. Also, the longer the time of sound exposure, the greater the risk of hearing loss.
Hearing loss can occur at a single exposure to intense sounds (like a cracker burst) or most commonly, hearing starts to reduce overtime after continuous exposure to sounds. Loud sounds harm the parts of the inner portion of the ear, leading to temporary or permanent changes in hearing. It will also cause a ringing sensation in the ears (tinnitus) and a permanent decrease in hearing capacity.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB). A normal conversation is about 60 dB, a motorcycle engine is about 95 dB and car horns are about 110dB. The loudness of sound from earphones and headphones is between 85dB to 120 dB at the highest volume. And sound loudness at concerts and clubs can amount to up to 105 dB and 115 dB.
Continuous sound exposure greater than 70 dB over time may start to damage our hearing. Music volume above 120 dB can bring about immediate harm to our ears.
A few sources of loud music:
• Music from earphones or headphones
• Music at clubs, pubs or bars, etc.
These are a few of the early signs warning us about the beginning of a hearing loss:
• Difficulty in following conversations, especially in a noisy environment
• Trouble understanding conversations over the phone
• Asking for constant repetitions
• Asking others to speak loud and clearly
• Increasing the TV/earphone volume
• A ringing sensation in our ears is a sign indicating that music is slowly starting to affect our ears.
Don’t worry, Hearing loss due to loud sound can be prevented!
Here are a few steps we can take to listen to music safely and protect hearing health.
1. Monitor the volume levels
It is ideal to keep the volume level between 50%-60% in our devices and not turn it up beyond that level no matter what. Especially when listening to music, watching movies and series through earphones/headphones.
Listening to music in a noisy area, like in heavy traffic can make us perceive loud volume as soft. Thus, as the background noise increases, we tend to increase the volume of our music listening devices as well. Causing the sound level reaching the ear higher, making ears vulnerable to damage.
2. Using noise-isolating and noise-cancelling headphones
These headphones block external noise and allow you to listen at a lower volume. These earphones can be good options when listening to music in a very noisy area to protect hearing.
Having said this, we must still stay disciplined and constantly keep the volume relatively low. Otherwise, we could still be damaging your hearing capacity.
Note: For safety purposes. It is advisable not to use earphones or headphones in traffic areas or any listening environments where we have to pay attention to the surrounding sounds, irrespective of the volume level. For instance, on using headphones or earphones at 50% capacity while driving, hampers our judgement regarding the distance and speed at which a vehicle is approaching from the rear thereby leading to accidents or other mishaps.
3. Switch to speakers whenever possible.
It is advised to listen to music through speakers. Also, when listening through speakers it should not be placed too close to the ears and the volume levels should be monitored.
4. Take a break.
Continuous exposure to even moderate levels of music is a risk to hearing. Thus, giving our ears a break is a good practice to protect hearing.
Taking a 15-20 min break between every hour of music exposure can be helpful. And giving rest after long exposure is important.
5. Protect your ears from loud sounds using ear protective devices.
Exposure to loud music is sometimes inevitable, especially at clubs, concerts, and events and particularly if you work in these environments.
If this is the case, then you must use ear protective devices. They are small devices, that look like Earbuds, and are worn to lower the overall volume of the sound entering the ear. Different types of ear protective devices include Foam plugs, molded plugs, earmuffs & canal caps/semi-insert plugs. We can get custom made earmolds that are comfortable and come in fancy colours. Make it a practice to carry them with you.
Follow these measures and have a safe and cheerful music listening experience!
If you have experienced any of the signs of hearing loss, it is not too late to start following the above-mentioned steps to prevent further hearing damage. And more importantly, visit an audiologist who can evaluate your hearing and guide you further.
The Father Muller Medical College Hospital, Department of Speech and Hearing offers a detailed audiological assessment, and guidance in the prevention of hearing loss.
For any other ear or hearing-related queries, you can visit the Department of Audiology at Father Mullers Medical College Hospital, Kankanady. You can also contact us between 8:30am to 4:30pm on weekdays.
Contact details: 0824-2238295
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