Are You Risking Hearing Loss When Listening to Music on Headphones?

The World Health Organization has confirmed what we feared... a large proportion of us listen to music on headphones at damaging volume levels. Here's the results rounded up and safety advice too.  

If you, like most of us, enjoy cranking up the volume when listening to your favourite tunes on your personal music player, you might be shocked to read the research from the UN’s World Health Organization. 

Their data, from middle income upwards countries, suggests nearly half of 12-35-year olds listen to music on headphones at unsafe volume levels. Additionally, they found that 40 percent of these experience “damaging sound levels” at live music venues, such as clubs, bars and other events.

You’re probably wondering what are safe sound / noise levels in terms of decibels and how this might be equated to real-world sound examples? Exposure to 85 decibels for up to eight hours (similar to being stuck in traffic) was found to be safe enough. However, “the safe exposure time halves with every three additional decibels, so volumes of 100 decibels are safe for only 15 minutes.”

Someone who listens to music on headphones at 95 decibels for 30 minutes will, according to WHO, will suffer “irreversibly damaged (hearing) in a couple of years' time.”

Most of us don’t carry around decibel meters, and nor do most portable music players show us how many decibels are being pumped into our ears. Dr Shelly Chadha, a WHO expert on hearing loss explains that if “you cannot understand conversation around you, you know that this is too loud.” 

Aside from the obvious of turning that volume control down, you might also want to consider wearing earplugs and noise cancelling headphones. Many of these can be moulded to fit your ear and some high-end products act as noise gates whereby external sounds are reduced to a safe level to protect your hearing.

If you’re making your money from music, or even if it’s just a hobby, please don’t disregard this article. I’ve personally met too many musicians and DJs who today suffer from tinnitus, deafness, and other hearing related conditions. All of these were caused by being exposed to sound at unsafe levels in music venues. So, for you, I’d urge you to remember you only have two ears which are pretty essential for making music with!

Source: ABC News

Rounik is the Executive Editor for Ask.Audio & macProVideo. He's built a crack team of professional musicians and writers to create one of the most visited online resources for news, review, tutorials and interviews for modern musician and producer. As an Apple Certified Trainer for Logic Pro Rounik has taught teachers, professional... Read More

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