This archived article was written by: Nikki Muth
Silence is what most people want at the end of the day; with all the noises at work, every retold joke by that not-so-funny friend, even the ticking of that useless classroom clock that has been wrong all year, more and more headphone users are getting closer and closer to experiencing it for themselves.
They don’t realize how frail their ears are, how sensitive a sense like hearing is and how easy it is to destroy their hearing. People don’t know how easy it is to fix the problem or get rid of it all together. In fact, noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented with simple things like volume limits and better choices in headphones.
As unlikely as this seems, this is a recent problem. Technology for media devices, as Walkmans, iPods or Mp3 players, grew increasingly efficient. The capability to play music for longer periods of time is apparent, where in the past, this efficiency didn’t exist (probably accounting for the saying, “if it’s too loud, you’re too old!”) The chance and ability to inflict noise-induced hearing loss has risen.
Along with providing people with an efficient way to destroy their ears, progression has led to listening to louder music. Not only is music louder, the technology to make it louder is commonplace.
The decibel levels for most modern music is much higher than any other. For example, an everyday conversation is in the 60 decibel (dB) range; most rock concerts and rock music are 120 dB to 150 dB (the same range as a jet engine). Take note that hearing 100 dB over a two-hour period can begin to cause permanent hearing loss (as the level goes up, the time it takes to damage your hearing goes down). Add that to the fact that people listen to loud music for much longer than two hours a day.
Soon, we could be a generation of silence, or an average fourth-grade classroom passing notes back and forth.
Fortunately, this problem can be curbed. According to a study by Cory Portnuff Au.D (a graduate student at the University of Colorado) and his team; if the listener keeps the volume at anywhere between 10-50% of the maximum-volume range, they can listen to limitless hours of music without hearing loss, and that is while wearing any headphones (ear buds included).
After reaching 80% of the maximum-volume limit, isolation headphones get the worst score with a recommended 50 minutes of listening time leading to hearing loss, ear buds are a close second with 1.5 hours until damage (also, iPod ear buds are rated worse than normal ones), and lastly over-the-ear headphones got the best score with five hours until damage. However, if you listen at 70% maximum-volume limit, the hours until hearing loss quadruples.
Do not discredit the usefulness of each type of headphones; each one has pros and cons. The problem with isolation headphones is that the sound doesn’t escape easily and is hyper-focused on the ear ( which is the same problem with ear buds).
The good thing is that it is easy to block out other noises with these headphones, so volume levels don’t need to be high. The problem with ear buds is that they tend to block sound coming in other than the music. In fact, the sound is trapped inside the ear (which is why many experts suspect ear buds are the worst to use and think they are the cause of most noise-induced hearing loss cases), but they are compact, simple and great for those with an active lifestyle.
Over-the-ear and on-ear headphones are shown to be the best to use and can often be worn around your neck and used as speakers. Their biggest problem is they are often cumbersome, clumsy, and awkward to wear, but there is also an upside. Because they are so difficult, you wear them less, or even wear them around your neck more. Mostly, headphone choices should be made according to your lifestyle.
Blasting music to hear it better may not be the best thing if you want to keep listening for years to come, but honestly, how many people can’t hear their music at 70%? If you wear over-the-ear headphones or on-ear headphones that gives you about 20 hours of safe listening.