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Can Headphones Damage Your Hearing?

Exposure of ears to a high pitched sound for a long time may damage one's listening ability and the damage caused is referred to as Noise Induced Hearing Loss or NIHL.

Can Headphones Damage Your Hearing?

Listening to loud music through headphones for a long duration can damage hearing


  1. Pain or discomfort in ears may signal damage to ears
  2. Buzzing or ringing in the ears can signal hearing loss
  3. Muffling of speech is a sign of hearing loss

Its no false, when your mobile warns you before increasing the volume ,''Listening at a high volume for a long time can damage your hearing. Tap OK to allow the volume to be increased above safe levels.'' Research proves, the warning message shown on your mobile, while increasing the volume further the blue mark may damage your hearing. Exposure of ears to a high pitched sound for a long time may damage one's listening ability and the damage caused is referred to as Noise Induced Hearing Loss or NIHL.

Listening to a sound above 85 dBps (decibels per second), can be harmful for one's ears. At an average, people (especially youngsters) listen to music or other sounds around or above 100 dBps, which damages the ear to a certain extent. A human ear is exposed to thousands of sounds daily, but those sounds don't damage ears. Listening music at a loud sound with headphones on for a long time can cause damage to ears.

30 years ago, people in their 20s could all hear to the low pitched sounds easily, like rustling of leaves, drip of rain drops. But now, for 1 in 5 of them, those sounds are gone forever. Doctors say, normally people aged 50 -60 years, used to consult them for hearing related problems, but now, people who are 40 or below are consulting them for the same because of their regular exposure to high volumes and increasing proneness towards hearing damage or loss.

People rarely now that, earbud hearing proves to be more harmful than headphones that go over the ears, because they come in direct contact with the ears and also earbud produces 120 decibels of sound where headphone produces 115 decibels.

If one is exposed to a sound which is greater than 85db for an average of eight hours without any hearing protection, the result may likely to be a hearing loss. Think about it!

Also read: Here's Why You Must Get Your Child's Ears Pierced

Below are some loudness and time facts, you should think about before listening to a headphone.

-Hearing at 95dB,may damage the hearing and cause pain within four hours of exposure.

-Hearing at 100dB,may damage the hearing and cause pain within two hours of exposure

-Hearing at 105dB,may damage the hearing and cause pain within one hour of exposure

With the increase in every 5dB ,the damage can occur within the half of the time of the last exposure. But, after 120dB, the damage may occur immediately to the ears, causing a hearing loss.

Hearing damage or loss can happen in two ways:

1. Temporary Threshold Shift- Its a situation in which hearing ability of a person is either reduced or lost for a while but it is recovered automatically after few hours, with or without medication.

2. Permanent Threshold Shift- Its a phase when a person completely loses his ability to listen. It happens when he is exposed to a high pitched sound on regular basis.

What actually happens inside your ear?

When strong sound vibrations reach your ear, the problem deep inside the cochlea is the fragile hair, they turn vibrations into sound messages and send them to the brain. But the loud sound damages the hair cells and cochlea can't relay the sound messages to the brain.Unlike the damage to other parts of the body, the inner ear/cochlea damage never heals. The more hair gets damage, the more hearing ability gets worse.

Also read: What Your Ears Say About Your Health

How to know, if you are facing hearing loss?

After the exposure to a loud sound, most common signs of hearing loss are:

1. Difficult to understand the speech of certain words.

2. Buzzing or ringing in the ears.

3. Muffling of speech.

The above given symptoms can be temporary, which are generally faced after a sudden exposure to a loud sound. But, if you are facing below given symptoms, then you must see a doctor.

1. Pain or discomfort in ears.

2. Severe hearing loss from one or both ears.

3. Acute chronic dizziness.

4. Drainage from ears.


Youngsters and young children are at high risk of hearing loss because of headphones
Photo Credit: iStock

How to reduce risk of losing hearing ability?

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Here are 5 beneficial steps one can follow:

1. Doctors recommend, a 60%/60 minutes rule. It says, listening at 60% volume for only 60 minutes with your earbuds on, can help you lessen the risk of hearing loss.

2. Avoid using headphones, when alone.

3. Noise cancelling headphones are better alternative, as they cut the outside noise, allowing you to hear a clear audio, which leads you to listen at low volume.

4. Do not use headphones in loud environments. As it may lead you to increase the volume which may harm your ears more.

5. Choose right headphones. Select the one with good sound, bass and treble and also one use the equalizer in their mobiles to manage the sound.

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Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information. 


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