What Happens When You Always Wear Earphones

Women with earphones

Headphones and earbuds are everywhere – but that doesn’t mean they’re safe for your ears. Using earbuds and headphones can cause damage to your hearing if you aren’t careful. Learn how to keep yourself safe.

Chances are you have a smartphone in your pocket and a pair of headphones that connect it directly to your ears. Unfortunately, those same devices that make listening to music or talking on the phone so simple might also be damaging your ears.

According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the use of headphones and earbuds has led to a major increase in the prevalence of hearing loss in adolescents and young adults. It’s reasonable to assume the same is true for adults using the same devices as well.


The key danger of headphones is volume – the fact that they can produce very loud levels of sound very close to your ear. This is dangerous for your hearing because loud noises, in general, are damaging to your ears.

When sound waves reach our ears, they cause the eardrum to vibrate. This vibration is transmitted to the inner ear through several small bones, where it reaches the cochlea. The cochlea is a fluid-filled chamber in your ear that contains many thousands of small “hairs.” When sound vibrations reach the cochlea, the fluid inside it vibrates and causes the hairs to move. Louder sounds cause stronger vibrations, which cause the hairs to move more.

When you listen to sounds that are too loud for too long, these hair cells lose their sensitivity to vibration. Many loud noises cause the cells to bend or fold over. This is what causes the sensation of “temporary hearing loss” after you are exposed to loud noises. The hair cells take time to recover from extreme vibrations caused by loud noise.

In some cases, however, the cells never recover. They may be too damaged to function normally any longer. This leads to lasting hearing loss. This type of noise-induced hearing damage is almost impossible to recover from. No cure exists for repairing a damaged inner ear.

So what can you do to keep yourself safe from hearing loss caused by headphones or other audio devices?


Avoiding headphone-induced hearing damage isn’t too hard. It simply requires most people to break some habits with their headphone use.


The single biggest change you can make to protect your hearing is to turn down the volume on your devices. Noise-induced hearing loss is caused primarily by exposure to very loud noise. Limiting your exposure can protect your ears.


Most people listen to headphones at a high volume to “drown out” other sounds. One good way to lower the volume on your devices and protect your ears is to use noise-canceling headphones. These headphones block out external sound, letting you enjoy your music or videos at a lower volume without distraction.


As we mentioned above, audiologists and otologists frequently recommend using over-the-ear headphones instead of in-ear or earbud-style models. Over-the-ear headphones increase the distance between your eardrums and the speakers, lowering the chance of hearing loss.


Along with turning down the volume, you can also protect your ears by reducing your listening time. One good rule of thumb is the “60-60 rule”: Don’t listen at any louder than 60% of max volume for any longer than 60 minutes at a time.

Unfortunately, your ears may never heal completely if they are already damaged from headphone-related noise. That doesn’t mean you’ll never hear well again, though. The latest innovations in hearing aids that are rechargeable make it easy to enjoy life with better hearing. Also hearing aid from a licensed audiologist can restore hearing ability and make it easy for you to hear again.
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