Are Headphones Bad for Your Ears?

by Jeremy Green | Last Updated: March 5, 2017

good headphonesNeedless to say, we love headphones – and we know how much yours mean to you. But there’s a lot of debate out there about the effect headphones can have on your ears.

No one wants to think that their headphones are slowly eroding their hearing or overall ear health. Fortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case – in short, you can rock on without fear that your ears will suffer any lasting damages.

But wait a minute! There are still some things you’ll want to keep in mind about the effects your headphones can have on your ears, as it’s not completely fair to say your ears are totally safe from your headphones; it depends on the type of headphones you have, the volume you listen to music at, how frequently you use them, and more.

Let’s delve into this further:

Are My Headphones Destroying My Hearing?

Well, maybe. But, probably not.

A number of factors come into play when exploring this question. If you’re interested in preserving your hearing but love headphones as much as we do, there’s a couple of considerations to keep in mind to make it a little easier on your ears.

Turn it Down!

Quiet sounds are completely safe for your ears, which begs the question: “When exactly does a noise stop being quiet?”

Noise is measured in a unit called decibels (dB). As it turns out, sounds below 85 dB are considered safe for the health of your ears, while anything over 90 dB has the potential to damage your hearing depending on how long you listen to it for.

Hearing specialist Dr. David Schessel explains how much high volume listening it takes to damage hearing. As one would expect, the higher the volume, the less exposure is required for negative impacts to occur.

It’s important to note, however, that it is the sound causing the damage to your ears in this case, not the headphones themselves. The results would be the same from blasting music at home, at a concert, or in a club.

In short, as long as you’re not listening to your music too loud, your ears should be just fine. It is recommended to listen to your music at no more than 60% volume and to limit your listening to about an hour a day – if you’re listening more than that, turn the music down a bit lower.

Headphones vs. Earbuds

The next thing to consider when it comes to protecting your ears is the type of headphones you’re using. When it comes to headphones vs. earbuds, one is definitely better than the other.

Because headphones sit on your head like earmuffs, rather than fitting inside your ear like earbuds do, they are the clear favorite of doctors. This is because earbuds add about 9 dBs of volume naturally due to their proximity to your ear canal.

Not only that, but earbuds don’t block out background noise nearly as well as headphones do; as a result, a lot of us feel compelled to turn the volume up even louder. This makes earbuds even more dangerous for your hearing.

When it comes to the choice that’s best for your ears, there’s little room for doubt – headphones are the best bet. They’re also our personal favorite way to listen to music and watch TV.

How Big of a Problem is This?

It’s significant. As many as 17% of teens in America have experienced hearing loss likely caused by noise, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. This marks a 30% increase in noise-induced hearing loss since the 1980s and 1990s.

While that’s certainly something to be concerned about, the good news is that it’s remarkably easy to make sure your headphone habits are safe for your ears!

Once hearing is gone, it can’t be repaired. Hearing loss is a serious matter and something you should look to prevent at all costs.

Thankfully, all it takes is a trusty pair of decent headphones and a lower volume. With this, your ears – and the rest of you as well – will be able to continue listening to your favorite hits for years to come.