I often get asked the question, "What about headphones and ear buds? Don't they hurt your ears?"Most of us are aware that it is very popular, especially with young people, to wearing big headsets seemingly for hours and hours a day. The assumption is this practice must be completely destroying their hearing. The short answer is that it most certainly can be hurting their hearing, but not necessarily. You see, sound doesn't hurt your ears. Your ears are built to receive sound.
In fact, they do it all the time. To some degree everyone is exposed to sound continually. What hurts your hearing is loud sound. Which technically is anything above approximately 85 Decibels.So how do you protect your ears when using headphones, ear buds, headsets, etc.? Here's a few simple rules to be aware of.
Keep the volume from getting too loud. Of course, you might naturally wonder how to know what is too loud, especially since you probably don't have a sound level metre. One crude rule of thumb is to keep your volume level below about three quarters.
As an approximate idea of what this level of volume is like, imagine this. You are around loud noise trying to talk to someone an arm's length away, and have to raise your voice, that is getting to be too loud to be safe.
Don't wear headsets for too long. The next factor that contributes to noise-caused hearing loss, which is what we're talking about here, is how long you're exposed to it. The longer you're exposed to loud noise, the lower the volume needs to be to be safe. This leads to another crude rule of thumb which is, try not to wear headphones for more than a couple hours a day. And, if you're really jamming out to something quite loud, then you need to keep that even shorter.
Don't cover up other noise with headphone sound. This is one point that some people mistakenly get caught doing. For example, they're running the lawnmower while wearing some cheap ear buds in their ears, and they crank the tunes up over the level of the lawnmower sound. Now, they're causing double trouble. The lawnmower is loud enough to warrant hearing protection, which the ear buds are not! And, on top of that, the high volume of the tunes is also causing damage.
A nice alternative is custom headphones (like the ones I'm wearing in the picture) because they actually do provide hearing protection and allow you to keep your volume lower while protecting from the outside noise.In summary, try to keep your headphone volume below three quarters, use no more than 2 hours per day, and don't try to cover noise with them unless they are custom headphones.Remember, your hearing is priceless! Hearing loss from noise damage can be helped, but it can't be repaired! So please protect the hearing that you do have, even if it's not perfect!