If we observe the last couple of years, we can see a surge in earphone and headphone usage. Previously headphone use was popular only among youths. Now the scenario has been changed; headphones became an integral part of human lifestyle irrespective of age and gender discriminations. But the main question is-Are headphones safe? The main hearing problems associated with unsafe headphones and earphones are hearing loss and Tinnitus. Researches are still are going on to study the effects of radiation on humans like cancer.
Are Headphones Safe?
Effects of earphones on ears is the most relevant and less discussed top among headphone users. They only think about this when their ears start aching.
Duration of usage and intensity of sound are the two main factors affecting your ears while listening to music through headphones.
Unhealthy and unsafe listening practices can affect your hearing and even make you deaf. According to the finding of the latest study conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than one billion youths are facing serious hearing problems as a result of unhealthy listening practices. But the real horror is when we understand the culprit of half of the issue is headphones and earphones.
Here the real question arises, are headphones safe? The answer is both YES and NO. Before going into detail, let us see some science.
1.How are Headphones Harmful?
To understand the harmful effects of headphones, first, let us see the science of hearing. The process of hearing is a complex phenomenon. The inner part of the ear comprises of a large number of tiny hair cells. The vibrations of these hairs transfer sound to the brain to fulfill the listening process.
But the sound from headphones that directly fed into the ear canal can affect the sensitivity of these hairs. This causes temporary or permanent hearing loss, depending on the intensity of sound. Permanent damage to hair cells results in irrecoverable hearing loss.
2. Are Headphones Safer than Earphones?
Headphones vs Earphones
Even though we use headphones and earphones interchangeably, there are some basic differences between them. Headphones are designed with a much larger earpiece, which covers the entire ear. They provide some better protection from outside noise by the effective noise cancellation offered by the bigger earpiece.
But earphones come with a smaller earpiece, which can be inserted into the ear canal. The main disadvantages of earphones are, the audio will be penetrated straight into the ear canal. So even a slight increase in volume levels can make a huge impact.
Unlike earphones, active and passive noise cancellation of the headphones are more effective. That means headphones are more effective in blocking the external noise mixing with your music. Thus headphones can deliver a better experience at a lower volume compared to earphones. This can ensure safety. The answer to the question, earphone or headphone, which is better for ears, is now obvious.
3. Do headphones emit radiation?
Yes, headphones and earphones emit radiation. But compared to wireless or Bluetooth headphones, radiation produced by wired are small, not threatening. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, radiation emitted by Bluetooth devices are non-ionizing in nature and less hazardous, but they also accept that further research in this field is required.
Even though the Specific Absorption Ratio (SAR) of wireless headphones is low compared to mobile phones, the danger lies in the proximity to the body and duration of usage.
The effect of radiation emitted by wireless headphones on cancer is yet to prove.
4. Effect of Headphones on Girls and Children
But studies show that exposure to a high level of non-ionizing radiation increases the chance of pregnancy loss by approximately three times.
The effects of headphones on children are much worse and complicated. Children have a tendency to hear their favourite programs like cartoons and songs at a very high volume. It is the responsibility of the parents to ensure that the children are using headphones at safe levels. They can also use suitable parental control to ensure this.
5. How to use earphones safely without damaging ears?
This is the most relevant question. We cannot stop headphones uses overnight because they are so helpful in delivering the best listening experience and convenience. The best method is to develop a healthy listening practice and also choose your earphones wisely. The safest headphone for your ears with fantastic noise cancellation features are available even under 2000, which can deliver the best quality music and protect your ears forever.
If you want to listen for a long time, keep the volume low because high volume through headphones can create problems within an hour.
The selection of earphones is also important. Always choose the ones with active and passive noise cancellation features. Their inbuilt technology can negate the outside noises and provide the best audio quality even in the lower volume levels.
Symptoms of hearing Loss
Just like any other organ ears are also meant for a long term purpose. So you have to handle them with care, it deserves a much more respect. Do not torture them by massive sound.
Our body shows a number of symptoms before serious problems like hearing loss. Here we discuss such indications shown by body
- Humming and buzzing sound in the ear. They will be in the minor levels at the beginning and subsequently increases with time
- Increased wax production from ear
- Feels like your ears are partially closed or muffled
- If you cannot hear television programs or songs at a particular volume, previously you could hear.
- If you face problem in understanding talks by others and force them to louden their voice
If you find any of these symptoms feel free to contact an audiologist. he can give you proper advice and suggestions to keep your ears safe.
Suggestions to use Headphones safely
Here we suggest some recommendations for a safe hearing experience, some of them are taken from The Harvard Medical School’s suggestions.
- Always keep the volume at a safe level.
- Always select best headphones for ears with active and passive noise cancellation feature to ensure a better listening experience at low volume levels.
- The problem of radiation can be eliminated by using Ferrite Bead.
- Use loudspeaker mode for long calling rather than headphones.
- Over-ear headphones can reduce the impact of sound on eardrums compared to in-ear earphones and TWS earbuds.
- Avoid the use of headphones in a noisy area like public transportation and busy markets. If you want to use it, make sure that the volume is under safe limits.
- Take breaks after extended listening periods.
Headphones are very useful in listening music in the best way. But we should take extreme care while using them. The question, are headphones safe? is seeking great importance than ever before. Unhealthy listening listening practices can cause serious hearing troubles. Still it is not possible to avoid the headphones completely. So the best method is to develop a healthy listening culture.
- How long is it safe to listen to music through headphones in one sitting?
The healthy duration and frequency of using directly related to type of headphone or earphone using, intensity of sound, and age group of user.
Sound at 150 dB can cause hearing loss within 15 minutes. If you are at a sound level, at which you are unaware about the surrounding noise, most probably the volume will be in the danger zone. We strongly recommend to remove the earphone immediately or reduce volume.
Audiologist usually prefer to limit the volume below 55 to 60%.
- Are headphones bad for your ears?
Headphones CAN be bad for your ears if not used properly. Listening for long hours at high volume can create problems from Tinnitus to permanent hearing loss.
- Are headphones bad for your brain?
Even though some scientists argue that continuous use of headphones can cause brain cancer, there is no proof to substantiate their claim. Anyway, electromagnetic radiation generating from headphones can create problems for your brain like infections on a long-term basis.
- Is it safe to use earphones?
I have heard a lot of questions from my friends and others like, is earphone good or bad? My answer would be-it will depend on your usage.
As a result of the latest researches, companies have started producing earphones safe for ears without breaking your pocket. Whether you are using headphones or earphones, always try to keep the volume under safe limits.
And also give proper rest to your ears after long listening hours.
It is also advisable to clean your earbuds regularly.
Sanil VS is a Chemical Engineer by Profession and he loves to write and review gadgets on his free times.