Do Earphones Damage Ears?

By Victor Salas

Whether you enjoy music at home or on the go, it's more than likely you use headphones or earphones to listen to your tunes. Listening to music with these accessories will not cause any serious damage to your ears, as long as you keep your music player's volume in check. When you don't follow basic safety precautions as you use your earphones when listening to music, you may end up with some form of ear damage that could ultimately lead to permanent hearing loss. According to a 2008 article in Time, more than 30 percent of Americans who were older than 20 years of age had lost some high-frequency hearing.

Using Earphones

This smaller type of earphone--known as earbuds--goes straight inside the center of your ear canal. Listening to music at a high volume this close to your inner ear--especially for extended periods of time--will damage the sensitive parts that make up the organ. So it's possible you can eventually cause permanent damage to your ears by using your earphones, but only if you fail to follow some basic rules.

Your Ears

The ear is defined by three sections: inner, middle and external. Sound travels in waves and when they reach the inner part of your ears, these waves vibrate your ears to serve as signals for your nerves. These are captured by tiny hair cells inside your ear canal and, at the end of this process, your brain recognizes sounds.

Symptoms of Damage

Hearing loss can happen with almost no alarming symptoms, because often there's no pain associated with it. There are some noticeable differences, as you will be unable to hear high-pitched sounds and it will be harder to understand speech in a crowd. Even if these symptoms go away, your inner ear might be already damaged and will continue to develop problems as you grow older.

Damage Control

If you do decide to use earphones, try to limit your music's volume to less than 85 decibels (dB). This level of sound is about the same as a lawnmower's rumble, so imagine what that loud noise would do inside your ear. Take 15-minute breaks every few hours when using earphones for longer periods. Any prolonged exposure to high volume levels will gradually make your ear build more wax, which blocks your ear canal and stops sound waves from reaching your ear.

Final Warnings

By continuing to hear loud music through your earphones, you will not let your ears regenerate enough hair cells to recover lost ones. As time goes by, it will be difficult to hear ordinary sounds. Once that happens, you are on the path to significant hearing loss.