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Preventing and Dealing With Hearing Loss in Earbud Users

Earbuds have become an indispensable part of our everyday lives, offering immersive experiences that cannot be surpassed by most other listening devices. While there were problems with audio quality and connectivity in early Bluetooth devices, that’s no longer the case. Most high-quality earbuds provide crystal clear sound that does not distort even at higher volumes. While that’s certainly amazing, we humans don’t have a history of self-restraint and caution, especially when it comes to gratifying experiences – we always opt for instant gratification even at the cost of our health.

This is also seen with increased use of earbuds, for longer periods, and at higher volumes. More young adults today are developing hearing impairments than ever before and we need to respond with greater urgency to this problem. This means taking steps to protect your ears and prevent hearing loss while making effective and affordable hearing aids accessible to everyone in need.

Understand the Risk

Earbuds pose a high risk of permanent damage to the auditory structures because they literally rest inside the ear canal – you are effectively putting speakers in there. This proximity to the eardrum increases the risk, adding to the fact that this position also boosts the decibel level by 9 points, making it more likely that your music is crossing the safe threshold of 85 decibels. Not surprisingly, news reports state that 1 in 5 teens suffer from hearing loss, which will only worsen with aging.

Ear Safety: Tips to Prevent Hearing Loss

Listen on the Clock – Set time restrictions for yourself, just as you’re advised to do with gaming or screen time. This is important as a large reason for hearing damage is prolonged exposure to noise or, in this case, music. Give yourself an hour or two a day and make it a point to take 5-minute breaks every half an hour or so just to be safe. Be realistic when setting such restrictions as they should be easy to adopt and follow. As you get in the habit of following them, you can begin tightening the restrictions.

Turn Down the Volume – Aside from the duration of exposure, volume or decibel level is a major risk factor for hearing loss. Anything over 85 decibels is regarded as unsafe and the longer you’re exposed to such loud volumes, the higher the likelihood of suffering permanent hearing damage. To keep a check on decibel levels, most experts recommend keeping your volume at 60 percent or lower at all times.

Find a Good Fit – Pick earbuds that fit you well because if they sit in your ear canal perfectly, they will block out all external sounds which can otherwise be a disturbance. This means that even if you have noisy coworkers or roommates, you can still escape into your music without pumping up the volume and risking hearing loss.

Buy High-Quality Earbuds – You get what you pay for, so don’t look for the cheapest earbuds. They tend to have poor sound quality and little regard for safety and regulations. With high-quality earbuds and streaming devices, you don’t need to increase the volume for a better sound experience and they also often have built-in features to limit the decibel levels or to warn users about volume or duration of use. You can also set such limits from your iPhone or any device you use for streaming.

Switch to Headphones – Yes, this is a tough choice, but it can make a big difference. As mentioned earlier, earbuds rest inside the ear canal and this increases the risk of damage. Headphones eliminate this disk as they are external. Of course, you still need to take precautions with volume and duration, but they will also give you greater protection.

Dealing with Hearing Loss

Hearing loss occurs slowly and over a long period of time, making it difficult to notice. To ensure an early diagnosis and treatment, make it a point to undergo routine hearing screenings every year. Treatments for hearing loss can vary greatly, depending on the type of damage and severity. In most cases, hearing aids are the most effective form of treatment for noise-induced hearing loss, while pharmaceutical therapies are also being developed but have no proven efficacy this far. Other treatments including surgical procedures will only be recommended if there are other complications such as fluid buildup in the ear resulting from an infection.

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