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Earbuds and Hearing Loss: Are They Connected?

Today, 1 out of 5 teens will experience hearing loss. This rate was 30% higher than it was 20 years ago. But there was something that didn't exist 20 years ago. That’s right. Earbuds did not exist 20 years ago — experts say that earbuds are to blame for the hearing loss that young people experience today.

At maximum volume, earbuds and AirPods can be as loud as 110 decibels, which is the equivalent of someone shouting directly into your ear. According to the CDC, being exposed to 85 decibels over a prolonged period, or repeatedly, puts you at risk of hearing damage. If you’re listening to your earbuds at the maximum volume of 110 decibels, you’re at risk of hearing loss after just five minutes — barely the length of two songs.
Alison M. Grimes, Director of Audiology and Newborn Hearing Screening at UCLA Health, says that two main factors contribute to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL): how loud the sound is and the duration of that sound. “The ear doesn’t care if it’s Tchaikovsky or Grateful Dead,” she says. “It’s all about sound pressure level in the ear canal.”

What are your thoughts on this one?

(Image Credit: rupixen/ Pixabay)


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Earbuds existed way more than 20 years ago. I remember them being available when I was a kid in the '80s. Even Wikipedia agrees and says "The use of the term earbuds, which has been around since at least 1984.."

Now, popularity on the other hand still explains mostly everything, but that still doesn't tell the whole story. I've known people that have had to forego high-end ear covering headphones due to temporary hearing loss directly associated with them. They've had to move to open-air headphones. Apparently the loss of air circulation caused buildup of wax and inflammation.

Hearing loss due to overly loud headphones is still the main driver, and earbuds just make it that much more pronounced due to the sealed airway. However, for some people simply sealing the ear is enough to cause issues.
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