Noise induced hearing loss can occur from either a one- time exposure to a burst of extremely loud noise or a repeated exposure to loud noise over time. One can conserve hearing by wearing hearing protection around loud sounds and limiting noise exposure. Audio players have been the subject of hearing loss research since the popularity of iPods and MP3 players increased in recent years. While loud environmental sounds may not be easily escapable, personal listening habits are optional. There are steps consumers can take to diminish the risk audio players have on hearing loss. Volume, time listening, and ear phone style can all be optimized to find the best combination for hearing conservation.
A basic rule of thumb when listening to music or sound with an audio device is the quieter the sound, the longer you can listen to it safely. If the sound is very quiet you can listen to it for a long time without damage. On the other hand, even common sounds can cause damage over a long period of time. A normal conversation occurs at about 60 decibels. The daily recommended safe volume level of any sound is below 85 dB for a maximum duration of eight hours. Sounds around 90 decibels and above can cause permanent damage to the hair cells in the inner ear leading to hearing loss.
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the Center for Disease Control created a chart to illustrate accepted standards for recommended permissible exposure time for continuous time weighted average noise. For every 3 dBAs over 85dBA, the permissible exposure time before possible damage can occur is cut in half. For instance 8 hour of permissible exposure time to 85db, 4 hours at 88dB, 100dB for 15 minutes, and 115dB for just 30 seconds. Every audio player is not created equal and volume level does not always directly correlate to decibels. Most stock earphone can reach a level over 100 decibels, loud enough to begin causing permanent damage after just 15 minutes a day. Applications or Apps are available that monitor decibels to help keep listening levels in the safe range.
Another step consumers can take to prevent noise induced hearing loss is to choose noise-reducing head phones. Noise canceling or isolator headphones cancel out background noise so the listener does not turn up volume to damaging levels in order to hear the audio. Listening to head phones in a quiet environment rather than in a loud environment is also recommended. In a study of one hundred doctoral students conducted by Audiologists Brian Fligor and Terri Ives, only 6% of students turned their music up to dangerous levels in quiet environments versus 80% of students turning their audio players up to dangerous levels in noisy environments.
You can get customized headphones by seeing an Audiologist. An Audiologist can make impressions of your ear and have your favorite headphones inserted in the molds.
“Earbuds vs. Headphones: Which Will Cause Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?” Medical Daily. December 21, 2015. Susan Scutti
“Does earphone type affect risk for recreational noise-induced hearing loss?” Brian J. Fligor, Sc.D., CCC-A and Terri Ives, Sc.D, October 19, 2006