Let the Music Play (at a Reasonable Volume)

Posted Jul 23rd, 2020 in Hearing Loss, Hearing Health, Tips & Tricks

headphones

Whether or not you have your various streaming devices set for auto-play, odds are very good you spend a considerable amount of time streaming music and video in the course of a day. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s a fact of contemporary technology. But to get the most benefit out of any technology, you need to use it responsibly. In the case of smartphones, tablets, and various portable music players, that means being careful about volume levels. If the volume on your streaming device is set too high, you could do fast damage to your hearing. 

Noise can be dangerous

Noise is so notorious in hearing healthcare circles that it has its own acronym—NIHL (noise-induced hearing loss).  NIHL is the second-largest cause of hearing loss the world over. Here’s how the culprit works: It is actually your brain, and not your ears, that recognizes sound. Hearing happens when tiny hair cells in your inner ear turn soundwave data into electrical impulses and then send them to the brain. Overly loud noises (even melodically musical ones) can literally traumatize those hair cells, damaging them irreparably and even killing them. With each hair cell that is damaged or dies, a bit of your hearing goes with it. Thus, the term “noise-induced hearing loss.” 

Use headphones carefully

In order to understand the effect of noise, you need to understand something called a “decibel”—the unit of measurement for the amount of pressure a sound puts on your ears. Anything above 85 decibels puts you at risk of hearing loss. Let’s put that into context: 
  • Your clothes dryer operates at about 60 decibels, so there’s no need to wear hearing protection while doing the laundry. 
  • Your gasoline-powered lawnmower, on the other hand, clocks in at around 91 decibels; that level of noise, without hearing protection, can harm your hearing in about two hours. 
  • If you drive a tractor, you’re cruising at about 100 decibels, which can damage hearing in 15 minutes. 
  • If you hop off that tractor to use a chain saw, you jump up to about 112 decibels, which can harm hearing within just one minute.
What does that have to do with music? Some streaming devices can put out chain-saw levels of volume, pouring 112 decibels onto your eardrums from about an inch away. That’s a very effective way to traumatize some of those hair cells we mentioned above. By the way, 112 decibels are 112 decibels, whether you’re listening to heavy metal or a symphony orchestra.

Protecting your hearing is important, at any age

Healthy hearing is obviously essential to communicating, but hearing loss has also been associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, depression, dementia and more. And ff that tempts you to think we’re only talking about later-life difficulties, please think again. Hearing health awareness needs to start early. 

Researchers have determined that any level of hearing loss in early life puts a child at an increased risk of difficulties with language and learning.  And since research has also found that 9 out of 10 kids and teens regularly use audio-streaming, there is definitely a reason to be concerned. 

And that concern is well-founded: 14 percent of the children in one of the studies mentioned above had hearing loss that could be measured. It was also found that a child who listened to their music-streaming device only once or twice a week had twice the likelihood of hearing loss compare to kids who didn’t use such devices. 

Some tips on listening responsibly

You don’t have to swear off technology in order to protect your hearing. Here are some ideas on how to keep your decibel-intake under control:
  • Use the 60/60 rule. Keep your devices at or below 60 percent of full volume and take a quiet break after every 60 minutes of listening. 
  • Choose headphones over earbuds. Earbuds let background noise get through, which can nudge you to turn up your volume. Headphones seal off your ear canal better, making it easier to stay at 60-percent volume. An even better option: noise-canceling headphones. 
  • Insist on using earbuds? Be sure to use the type that sit inside your ear canal, not the ones that sit just outside the entrance to the ear canal. The inside-your-ear type helps to block background noise and keep your music inside the canal. 
  • Check for a sound-limiter feature. Look into getting a device that either automatically limits your top volume or gives you an alert when you are crossing over into dangerous-decibels range. 
  • Try volume-limiting headphones. There are headphone products for kids that will not go above 85 decibels but shop carefully. There was a study that tested 30 brands and found that nearly half of them weren’t effective. 

Want to know more about protecting you and your loved ones from noise-induced hearing loss? All you need to do is contact us. we’ll be happy to help!

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