August 7, 2019

5 Best Practices for Headphone Use

Headphones have created an immersive space for individuals to listen to music, but the reckless use of these devices could damage hearing and cause tinnitus.

The American Tinnitus Association describes tinnitus as, “the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present.” Tinnitus is commonly perceived as ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling or clicking in the ears.

It is not the use of headphones themselves that increase the risk of tinnitus, but the volume at which you are listening to music or other audio that can lead to potential ear damage. The good news is, you don’t need to get rid of your headphones all together to avoid tinnitus, but if you are planning to use headphones, make sure to follow these guidelines for minimizing potential hearing damage.

Invest in noise-cancelling headphones

Noise-cancelling headphones are known to be the safest for your ears. Noise-cancelling headphones do just that – cancel the loud noises around you, thus allowing you to listen to audio at safe volumes and preventing an increased need to hear over the outside clatter. They do this by using a microphone that picks up the surrounding noise and emits sound waves opposite of the noise to block it out. They’re perfect for travel, working in a coffee shop or other environments where you can predict the noise is going to be loud.

Wear earbuds

If you aren’t a fan of noise-cancelling headphones and are looking for something that doesn’t fit over your head, try earbuds. Like noise-cancelling headphones, earbuds fit deeper into your ears and block out surrounding sound — allowing for lower listening volume.

Use both headphones

Using both headphones helps balance out the sound between your ears while blocking out nearby noises. When you only use one headphone, the volume feels lower and you end up needing to increase the sound. This can result in your exposed ear being susceptible to hearing damage.

Follow the 60/60 rule

Doctors advise the 60/60 rule when listening to music. If you are listening to audio at 60 percent volume, make sure to take a break after no more than 60 minutes. This is important if you are choosing to use earbuds instead of noise-cancelling headphones. Since the sound is placed much deeper in the ear when using earbuds, high volume can be more damaging. This is where the 60/60 rule can be helpful to remember.

Check your ears regularly

To prevent tinnitus or other hearing damage, make sure to have your hearing tested by an audiologist and have your primary care physician or ear nose & throat physician check your ears regularly. Hearing loss has increased significantly with mainstream headphone usage. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe recreational noise and use of headphones. However, if you are concerned about the health of your hearing, a hearing exam can help you stay proactive and detect any significant damage in the early stages.

Overexposure to loud noise is what most commonly causes tinnitus. How loud, how long and how often you listen to music with headphones or to any loud noises will all play a role in your hearing health. Consult your doctor if you believe you are experiencing symptoms of tinnitus or hearing loss.

At Puget Sound ENT, we offer comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of all ear, nose and throat conditions. Call 425-775-6651 or visit our Contact Us page to schedule your appointment today.