Understanding The Link Between Headphones & Hearing Loss


Listening to music through headphones is something that most of us do on a daily basis without so much as a second thought. Indeed, music a big part of many of our everyday lives, but it is important to exercise caution and moderation in the way that music is enjoyed.

You’ve undoubtedly been warned against the perils of loud music at some point in your life, but at Advanced Hearing Solutions, we find that there is a general lack of understanding as to how loud noises affect the human ear. We don’t want to prevent you from listening to the music you love—quite the opposite in fact! We want to ensure that you’re still able to enjoy that music 50 years from now.

How The Ear Works

Your ear is composed of 3 parts: the inner ear, the middle ear, and the external ear. Your inner ear is full of tiny hair cells, and it is these that are responsible for your ability to hear. These hair cells convert sound waves into electrical signals that can be conducted via your body’s nerves. Your nerves will carry these electrical signals to the brain, which is where the magic happens, so to speak.

These hair cells are easily damaged, so we need to be careful with them.

How Different Noise Levels Affect Your Ear

A decibel (dB) is how we measure sound. The maximum volume of most headphones is approximately 105 dB. To give this some context, our normal speaking voices tend to fall within the range of 40 to 60 dB. The softest level of sound that most humans are able to detect is just lower than 20 dB, but if you go to a loud concert and sit next to the speakers, the noise level will likely surpass 140 dB. So your headphones fall on the upper reaches of this spectrum.

Today, upwards of 20% of teenagers suffer from some sort of hearing loss, and this number has been steadily increasing since the 1980s. The most troubling facet of this sort of hearing loss in young people is that it is irreversible. Things are only going to get worse for these teenagers.

Headphone are particularly harmful in the arena of hearing loss, because proximity to the noise source has been shown to be a driving factor in damaged sustained by your ears. Or, to put it more simply, the closer you are to the speaker, the more sensitive you will be, so inserting speakers directly into your ears is risky business.

How To Keep Your Ears Safe (And Still Use Your Headphones)

There are essentially 2 dimensions of noise that drive hearing loss.

  1. Volume. How loud is your music?

  2. Duration. How long do you spend listening to music?

Headphone Volume

Don’t worry—you can still listen to music through your headphones. However, you should be advised that, if you want to act in ways that will protect your ears, you should only listen to your music at 60% of the maximum volume.

Listening Duration

You can do a lot to protect your ears simply by modulating their exposure to loud noise. In general, you should try to limit your time listening to headphones to 60 minutes per day. However, if you feel that you are in dire need of a musical pick-me-up, taking 15 minute breaks from those high noise-levels can go a long way towards keeping your ears healthy.

Worried About Hearing Loss?

Check out our recent article, 10 Ways To Tell You’ve Started To Experience Hearing Loss. If this sounds like you, it might be a good idea for you to come in and see us! Get in touch with us today to schedule an appointment.