Listen up: Here’s how to protect earbuds from hurting your hearing

PITTSBURGH — Much like cellphones, earbuds have become an item many people can’t leave home without. And with many people wearing them several hours each day, how is hearing being impacted?

From running errands to exercising, people can be seen with some type of headphones in just about any setting. They’ve even changed how people talk on the phone.

Now, doctors are hearing more and more about concerns about earbud safety.

“As parents, we often think about screen time, the amount of time you’re allowing your child to look at a screen. You could almost think about it like hear time as well. How much time do they spend with earbuds, AirPods or other headphones around their ears?” Dr. Elliott Kozin, a physician and surgeon at Mass Eye and Ear, said.

Kozin said patients are asking how they can protect their ears.

“Be aware of it. To be aware that if you listen to sound, whether it’s music or conversations that are at a really loud level, it can cause long-term hearing loss. So, I think as long as you’re aware of that, you can take preventative steps,” Kozin said.

The first step is to lower the volume.

It’s important to recognize symptoms, such as ringing in your ear or headaches. Those are signs that you should turn down the volume.

Also, think about the environment around you. If you’re turning up your headphones to cancel out the noise, then you should turn down the volume or take out your headphones and experience what’s going on around you.

Kozin said researchers are looking into whether certain types of headphones can cause more damage than others.

“Anything that’s closer to your inner ear or eardrum might be more detrimental because you’re essentially blocking out all the other sounds and can make it much louder,” Kozin said.

To cut back on the amount of time headphones are in your ears, Kozin suggests listening through the speakers when working from home or during virtual meetings.

He said some studies show by the time someone reaches their 40s or 50s, they’re already experiencing some type of hearing loss. That’s why he urges people to take their ear health seriously.

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