You could be turning deaf because of your headphones. Our expert lists a guide of what you should avoid while listening to your favourite tracks on the go
Is music your safe haven from the hellish traffic jams you travel through everyday? You might need to re-think this strategy. Drowning out incessant honking on our potholeridden roads with Comfortably Numb, might just be numbing your eardrums for life. Like Rajeev Khandelwal who loses his hearing in Soundtrack, thanks to his constant use of headphones as a DJ; the actor’s on-screen nightmare can actually become your reality.
In today’s world of iPods and phones that can play music, most people are plugged in constantly. Our expert Dr Nishit Shah, ENT consultant at Bombay Hospital tells you what you can do to avoid losing your sense of sound.
Play it loud
Listening to music at half the volume your player is obviously not damaging. It all depends on the volume and how long you are listening to it. Shah says, “There are guidelines laid down by World Health Organization as to what decibels are permissible. Most workplaces and music player manufacturers adhere to these guidelines. But constant exposure is still a problem.” Cranking up the volume for longer periods of time is very dangerous, and can lead to partial deafness. The higher the volume gets the lesser amount of time the ear can take it.
Unlike people who go deaf during a bomb blast or hearing the sonic boom of a plane, deafness caused by headphones creeps on you and if not checked, the effects can be adverse. “I have seen people who show no obvious signs of deafness when they are young, can hardly hear anything when they reach their 60s.” Studies show that this is common among people who go for a lot of concerts and clubs. Shah says, “Deafness caused due to listening to music does not happen overnight. The ear warns you before things can get really bad with tinnitus.
You get a ringing sound in your ear, which means hearing loss is imminent. When you exit a club, your ears feel relieved and you can’t hear too well immediately. That’s because your ears are adapting to the new environment.”
In fact, Shah says that moving from an extremely loud place (like a club) to an extremely quiet place can be more damaging than exposing yourself to higher decibels for longer.
Right hear, right now
Studies have shown that other than musicians and people in studios who want to listen to intricate sounds of a particular track, most people listen to music on headphones loudly to drown out background noise. The standard ear piece or even normal headphones are no good. Shah recommends using in-ear headsets or noise reduction/cancellation headphones that naturally drown out background noise. He says, “People who use these headsets have a tendency to listen to music at a lower volume anyway. So, if you want to listen to something throughout the day this would be the best way to avoid loss of hearing.”
The scariest part about losing your hearing ability is that there is nothing you can do to regain it. The strongest preventive drug doctors prescribe is “common sense”. Shah says, “Most people don’t buy headphones because of quality, they buy it because it is loud enough. How do you tell people otherwise? You have to be aware of what is happening to your ears. As soon as you feel any discomfort, take a break. You cannot listen to music loudly for eight hours in a row. This will obviously affect your hearing.”
If you feel like you are losing your sense of hearing, head to an ENT immediately. In the first few days of being affected, your hearing can be repaired with the help of steroids, but very few people actually spot the impediment so soon. Then, of course, there are hearing aids. These are used when the damage is already done though, and you want to avoid that altogether.
Just how much is too much?
Research suggests that risk of permanent hearing loss goes up with just five minutes of exposure a day to music at full volume. Traffic noise is at about 70 to 80 decibels. If you’re trying to drown this out, you will hit dangerous decibel levels. Listening to earbuds, or in-ear headphones, for 90 minutes a day at 80 percent volume is probably safe. However, different brands have different volumes and that needs to be factored into the decision to buy headsets.
Source: Kevin.Lobo @timesgroup.com