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Headphones Hearing Education

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

Say what?! I can’t hear you!

What you need to know about the effect that Headphones have on your hearing.

Many of us know that our hearing does not recover once it is damaged. However, most of us don’t take into consideration the damage that a pair of headphones can have on your hearing. Using headphones at high volumes for extended periods of time can result in lifelong hearing loss.

How loud is too loud?

Most MP3 players can produce sound up to 120 decibels (35 decibels higher than the hazardous noise threshold). At that level, hearing loss can begin after only 1 hour and 15 minutes. A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t hear anything going on around you while using headphones, then they are too loud and will damage your hearing.

Duration of exposure.

It is recommended that you use headphones for no more than 60 minutes a day at 60% maximum volume. Of course, the louder the volume is, the less exposure time is needed to cause permanent damage. At maximum volume, permanent damage can be dealt after as little as 5 minutes of exposure.

What are some signs of hearing loss?

Hearing loss caused by headphone use is usually gradual, cumulative and without obvious warning signs. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, it is recommended that you visit your doctor as soon as possible.

◘ Ringing, roaring, hissing, or buzzing in one or both ears
◘ Muffled sounds and feeling as though your ear is plugged or full of water
◘ Difficulty understanding speech in noisy places
◘ Listening to a TV or radio at a higher volume than in the past

How do you treat/prevent hearing loss?

Unfortunately, hearing loss caused by headphones is irreversible. Hearing aids and implants can be used. However, these devices only amplify sound, they do not fix what is already damaged/nonworking in the ear. Your best bet is to learn how to prevent hearing loss. Remember the 60/60 rule (60 minutes a day at 60% maximum volume) when using headphones. Headphones that are rated as “noise canceling” are generally recommended because they reduce the level of competing noise, thus reducing the need to raise the volume. Nonetheless, moderation by reducing volume and the duration of exposure is key to preventing hearing loss caused by headphones.

For more information regarding hearing loss please call the Public Health Office at (575) 572-3306 with any questions.