January 31, 2020

Earbuds Can Damage Your Hearing

Earbuds Can Damage Your Hearing

Earbuds and headphones have become a common way we listen to music, our favorite podcasts, and watch videos. Though they are designed to make listening easier and more convenient, earbuds can harm your hearing health. The ability to increase the volume on this device that is nestled so closely to your eardrum is what makes earbuds particularly dangerous. One of the causes of hearing loss is chronic exposure to short or long-term noise. So the consistent projection of sound, played at high volumes, from your earbuds could damage your hearing.

How Hearing Works

Hearing is a complex process that requires the comprehensive use of the ears, which are sensitive organs. The primary function of the ear is to absorb and translate sound for the brain to understand and make meaning of. The ear can be divided into three key parts:

  • Outer Ear: the external part of the ear that is visible), the auditory canal and the eardrum, which, separates the outer ear from the middle ear.
  • Middle Ear: consists of three connected bones (known as the auditory ossicles, they are among the smallest bones in the human body) and the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube is a canal that connects the middle ear to the upper throat and back of the nose.
  • Inner Ear: consists of the cochlea, which is located within the temporal bone. The cochlea is filled with fluid and hair cells.

The outer ear detects and absorbs sound from the environment. These sound waves travel through the auditory canal and land on the eardrum. This causes the eardrum to move and vibrate, these vibrations then reach the ossicles in the middle ear. The three small bones amplify the sound waves and move them further into the inner ear. In the cochlea, the sound waves cause the fluid and hair cells to move, transforming the sound waves into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain (through the auditory nerve) where they are interpreted as sound.

How can loud noise damage your hearing?

Loud noise can damage various parts of your ears such as hair cells, membranes, and nerves. It can be especially harmful to the cochlea, which is filled with thousands of hair cells that we are born with. As mentioned above, sound waves land in the cochlea (through the vibrations of the ossicles) and cause the hair cells to move. The louder the sound, the stronger the vibration, this means these small hairs will move more. Exposure to loud noise causes these hair cells to temporarily bend or fold over. This is precisely why after leaving a noisy environment (concert, sporting game, movie theater etc.), your hearing may be temporarily impaired. Noise seems muffled, there is ringing in your ears, you may be speaking loudly, and may be unable to hear soft sounds. Typically, these hair cells will become straight again after a short period of time and your hearing will be restored.Hair cells need time to recover from exposure to loud sound. However, consistently listening to loud sounds can exhaust the hair cells, causing them to loose sensitivity or be completely destroyed. These hair cells, unlike other types (for example skin cells), do not regenerate. This means that if they are killed, this damage is permanent.

How to Reduce the Risk

Earbuds have become integrated in our daily lives. There are better ways to use them that may reduce the risk of hearing loss, including:

  • Decrease the Volume: exposure to loud noise is the primary way you can damage your ears. It is always a good idea to turn down the volume on the devices connected to your earbuds.
  • Use Noise-Cancelling Headphones: it is common to increase the volume when you are in noisier environments. Using noise-cancelling headphones can allow you to still hear the sound at a lower volume by reducing the external noise.
  • Limit Exposure: your ears work hard to hear and the hair cells in the cochlea need a break to rest and restore. So do not fall asleep with earbuds and take listening breaks!

Preventing the harm to your hearing health that earbuds can have can be as simple as breaking a few habits!

Latest Articles

Browse ARTICLES
The Benefits of Being Social for Older Americans
May 18, 2022

The Benefits of Being Social for Older Americans

Take a moment to recall the last time you were part of a social activity. What are some of your memories? Not all social activities are happy and relaxing, but there’s one that that they tend to have in common: connection. When we engage in social activities we are reminded of the ways we are connected to those in our families, friendships, and communities. However, for those who haven’t had a social activity in a while, this lack of connection can be a key problem. Rather than focusing on the detriments of a lack of social activity for seniors, let’s focus on the positive benefits that seniors can receive from more social activity. Not only do they take the form of direct benefits such as feelings of connection, they also have indirect effects on your mental and physical health. After considering the wide range of benefits to be achieved from these social connections, let’s imagine the many ways it is possible to expand the range of connections.

Mental Health and Social Life

When we are connected to others, a number of effects take place in our mental health. In the first place, we are generally reminded that others share our experiences. These reminders put us in the mental space to acknowledge that we are not alone. Similarly, social connections can relieve feelings of anxiety. When we are isolated our heads can spin into feelings of confusion, fear, and mixed expectations. Being with others can be grounding, serving as a reminder of how much others are going through. Finally, social life can improve symptoms of depression. Although it can feel like the most difficult thing to socialize when we are depressed, it can have a profound positive effect on depressive symptoms to spend a little time with others.

The Physical Benefits of Social Activity

It might come as a surprise, but there are physical benefits to social activity, as well. In the first place, simply getting out of the house introduces physical activity into our daily routines. Moving through the world to social events can be remarkably beneficial for our energy levels and mobility. In addition to this direct physical effect of social life, there are other more surprising connections, including reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, some forms of cancer, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular problems. Add to the list that nutrition is often improved when we eat with others in social contexts. These social benefits in the realm of physical health lead us to believe that we stand to gain more that feelings of connection when we are actively social.

How to Improve Your Social Life

If you are a senior who finds your social life dwindling, there are some basic steps you can take to get connected. One of the simplest things you can do is to reconnect with old friends and family members with whom you’ve lost touch. Take a quick scroll through your address book or calendar from past years. You are likely to find people listed there with whom you can connect, and you’ll be surprised how easy it can be to pick up and reconnect. Simply making a call is all it may take before you have a new lunch date or are even planning a trip with someone. Sometimes more casual connections are all it takes to feel like your social life has improved. Clubs are a great resource for these kinds of connections, and there are many organizations oriented around your favorite activities and hobbies. If you like crafts, mechanics, or political affairs, simply do a little digging and a club or organization is sure to turn up. Finally, physical activity is an excellent way to integrate all these benefits into a single activity. Take, for instance, an exercise class. With regular attendance, you are sure to reap the physical, emotional, and directly social benefits that have proven effects. When taken in combination, you will be surprised at how good you feel, and the connections tend to multiply. Why hesitate to take action toward stronger social activities? You will not regret it when you feel the support of a strong community around you once again.

Read More
Common Excuses for Not Buying Hearing Aids
May 18, 2022

Common Excuses for Not Buying Hearing Aids

If you suspect that your loved one is developing hearing loss, you have likely already heard one or a combination of these excuses for refusing to seek assistance. Often these excuses work in concert with one another, and the struggle to convince a family member or loved one can require logical cartwheels. Knowing some of the most common excuses can help you understand where your loved one is coming from and also to encourage solutions rather than living with limitations.

My Hearing Isn’t That Bad

Perhaps the most common response when confronted with hearing loss is the claim that hearing isn’t that bad and that a person can make do without assistance. Although many people satisfice in the context of limited hearing ability, why continue to struggle with limitations when assistance options are available? The only way to know how bad hearing ability has become is to get a hearing exam by a licensed professional. With this information in hand, you will have a sense not only how your hearing measures up to population averages but also how much you can hear relative to your own starting point.

I’m Getting Along Fine

The partner of the first excuse is the idea that a person can get along fine without hearing aids. Although some people are able to find remarkable work-arounds to complete their daily tasks, there are serious health effects associated with untreated hearing loss. Not only can hearing limitations create a physical risk, they can also lead to mental health problems, emotional burdens, and even cognitive strain. Your loved one might feel like the situation is sufficient, but just imagine how much better life might be with adequate hearing ability. Conversations can be restored to a fluid back-and-forth, information can travel freely, and the stress of not knowing if you will be able to communicate in a given situation can be relieved.

Hearing Aids Are Too Expensive

It is true that hearing aids are a serious investment in your wellbeing, but there are often solutions to make them more affordable. Some forms of insurance cover all or part of the purchase of hearing aids, and other financing options are available, as well. The bigger question might be one of priorities. Knowing that hearing assistance can restore relationships, conversations, and relieve mental anxieties, your loved one might be undervaluing their own health and wellbeing.

Hearing Aids Are Frustrating to Use

In the past, hearing aids were nascent technology with lots of bugs to work out. You may have seen someone struggling with hearing aids, trying to adjust the volume levels or cancel out squealing feedback. Others in the past found that manual dexterity issues or arthritis got in the way of inserting or removing aids. The new features of hearing aids make it possible to remedy many of these frustrating aspects in the past. Some hearing aids are connected to smartphone apps that allow you to easily change volume levels, even setting profiles for different locations or types of events. The latest hearing aids come in all shapes and sizes, making it much easier to deal with them comfortably.

Hearing Aids Don’t Work

Maybe your loved one knows someone who had a bad experience with hearing aids. Perhaps this person was unhappy with the amount of assistance received or the trouble that came along with the aids. Although hearing aids don’t promise 100% success for all users, their effectiveness is improving rapidly, and most people with hearing loss find a powerful improvement to their daily lives. The only way to know if they will give you the assistance you seek is to give hearing aids a try.Don’t let one or more of these excuses get in the way of solutions. If your loved one is hesitant to get hearing aids for these or other reasons, perhaps the first step is the simplest. Getting a hearing test is easy, quick, and painless, so why not make an appointment right away. There is no harm in understanding your current hearing ability, and this baseline exam can be helpful to track future hearing ability, as well. If you discover a need for hearing aids, your hearing health professional can assist you in taking the next steps.

Read More