From the Sony Walkmans of old, to today's hands-free Bluetooth devices, it seems like people really do like taking their music around with them. Just take a step outside, and you're bound to see someone lost in their own little world, with ear buds or headphones on their ears. At school, in the office, at the gym- they're practically everywhere.
The Bad Side of Ear Buds
Ear buds take precedence in terms of popularity over other portable listening devices. They're dirt cheap, can be easily wrapped around a phone or MP3 player, and aren't as bulky as over-ear headphones.
However, their ubiquitousness comes at a huge price. According to studies, an alarming one out of five teenaged Americans suffer from hearing loss, and ear buds are thought to have contributed a lot to this dire situation.
The more teens turn up the volume, the more they damage their ears. And the worst thing of all is that hearing loss is irreversible.
How Ear Buds Do Damage to the Ears
The types of noise that can cause hearing loss fall into two categories. One is through noise that comes suddenly, like the earsplitting sound made by fireworks, explosions, and gunfights. The other is through sustained high volume noise such as those you are exposed to when you work in industrial factories or when you listen to loud music (through concerts or through speakers and headphones) for long periods.
Ear bud users often tend to give little thought to the volume of the music they're listening to. Since ear buds sit in the ear canal, audio signals from music devices get dangerously close to the ear drums. The volume is amplified by around nine decibels too.
Anything over 85 decibels can cause considerable hearing damage if sustained for long periods. Listening to a lawnmower (with a noise rating of 90 decibels) for three hours does about the same damage as to hearing a jet taking off (rated at 150 decibels) at thirty seconds.
Coupled with the fact that most people nowadays use ear buds for hours without interruption (especially now, when modern MP3 players, iPods, and smartphones have longer battery lives), we're probably jumping headfirst into a bleak and sad hearing-impaired future.
How To Keep Your Ears Healthy While Listening to Music
Make sure that teenagers and children know the dangers of hearing loss caused by improper ear bud use. The more they know about it, the less likely they are to get their hearing damaged in the future.
If you have the budget for it, invest in custom made ear buds that are fitted to the shape of your ear canal. As they are more fitted to your ears, they block out most background noise, allowing you to enjoy your music at lower volume levels.
Alternatively, you can buy over-ear "earmuff" style headphones, preferably those with noise-cancellation. They're a bit bulky, but they do a great job of keeping background noise out.
Try to keep the volume of your listening device at around sixty percent, and keep your listening time to just about an hour per day.