I gave up earbuds–so should you

A pair of earbuds. For some, this daily item will cause massive hearing loss and tinnitus years down the line.

People seem to be divided into those who use personal listening devices sparingly and those who use them religiously. For about a year, I was one of those lads who took every opportunity to pass the time in classes with some music. In that time, I noticed that many kids did the same. Since then, I have changed my ways–but I still notice people using them every time I see them. In this article, I will implore you to make a good decision by explaining the negative consequences of listening to too much music, which I have experienced myself.

This is a plea for people who are like how I used to be. I urge you to please reconsider your habits. School is dull whenever it’s not stressful–I understand–but listening to music won’t clear your mind or relax you when you’re struggling with the adverse effects of loud music. I gave away my earbuds. Passing time wasn’t worth the damage it was doing to my hearing. The hearing loss I’ve accumulated over the last year will forever be a reminder of an extremely poor decision I made in my youth. While I learned from this mistake and am more than ready to live with the consequences, I feel compelled to warn people that the danger is very real.

Maybe your parents have given you a snide “You’ll hurt your ears!” and you brushed it aside. Their comments likely just came off as nagging, but as someone who’s still a minor himself, I have to stress just how valid their concerns are. Some of your parents or an adult you know probably hurt their ears going to loud concerts, or something similar. I encourage you to talk to parents, and listen to their genuine concern over a valid problem.

Noise wears hearing down over time. If it’s loud, it wears hearing down considerably. Tiny hairs in your ears, which are usually the part of your ears which actually send signals to your brain about what you’re hearing, can be damaged or destroyed by loud noise, or break down naturally with age. Hearing loss can occur slowly due to constant exposure to fairly loud noise, but it can also occur suddenly due to momentary exposure to extremely loud noise. Some folks go to concerts and come back with permanent hearing damage.

People are largely ignorant on this issue, and the nationwide prevalence of people listening to music too loud for too long is startling.The CDC estimates that 12.5% of kids 6-19 and 17% of adults have some sort of permanently damaged hearing. A set of jarring statistics by Siemens Hearing Instruments paints a grim picture for millennials. As documented here, Siemens found that 1 in 6 teens already encounter some sort of hearing loss in their lives. 46% reported tinnitus-like conditions after listening to loud noise for some time. 88% admit that they participate in activities which they know are going to damage their hearing. 78% state their parents would not approve of their habits which expose them to this noise. These statistics should be alarming on a national scale. If we continue at this rate, we will be a nation comprised mainly of hard-of-hearing individuals.

Tinnitus, a condition in which a person hears occasional or constant ringing in their ears, is a lot easier to develop than you think. There’s no cure, and it never goes away. Sometimes when I’m walking along one of my ears will start ringing for a few seconds. This is ultimately what shocked me into handing over my earbuds for good. I haven’t experienced that since, a pleasant surprise, considering tinnitus is supposed to be incurable. But it was enough of a scare for me to swear off in-ear earbuds for good, and I urge you to do the same. The sad part is, sometimes I wish I had my earbuds with me during particularly slow moments. I suppose in a way the use of personal listening devices is somewhat addicting.

Contrary to popular belief, music doesn’t make you a better worker or help you focus on your studies. The opposite is true. The brain needs silence to focus, and if it’s busy following a tune, then you can’t work as fast or as well as someone thinking only about their work.

I’m not alone in my concern over this issue. “At such a young age, having irreversible hearing loss, obviously, is a bad thing. It’s not something that you can get fixed. At least, [treatments] are expensive if you do. With new technologies in the future, it’s more possible… Having this hearing loss and having it be something you [can’t] control, it’s a good decision to not have your music so loud, that when you take it out, your ears are ringing.” Said Jake Scarlett, a junior at Leesville and avid musician who admits to suffering from hearing loss.

However, some students emphasize that everything is fine in moderation. “I think it’s okay for some teenagers to use headphones sometimes, when they need to concentrate. You don’t [have] to use them all the time,” said Holly Jones, freshman.

How loud is too loud? The answer seems to be that it depends. There’s much consensus that loud noise from earbuds in particular is more damaging to your ears than out-of-ear hearing devices, because in-ear devices blast the sound directly into one’s cochlea. The CDC states that sounds over 85db will cause gradual hearing loss, and sounds over 120db will cause sudden hearing loss. GCAudio states that the decibel level of the average loud rock concert sits at 115db and a walkman on 5/10 sits at about 94db.

These sound levels are precariously close to the levels shown to permanently damage your hearing. When and if you do use earbuds, the volume meter on your iphone/android should probably never exceed half. The decibel level will vary based on the kind of earbuds you have. A good guideline is that you should always be able to hear someone calling your name from right beside you. If you can’t do that, it’s much too loud. The fact remains that even quiet use is damaging if you use them too much, because the sound is being sent directly into your ear. You can’t win keeping your earbuds in all the time- it’s going to hurt you, and it’s going to hurt bad, if the exposure is constant.

Lastly, it should be noted that music is more rewarding when you consume it after a hard day, instead of using it to distract yourself from your surroundings. Someone who listens to music all day, like I did, is eventually going to get bored of most of what they listened to. Maybe you’re listening to music more out of habit than because you enjoy it. I implore you to make a choice you won’t regret and choose hearing over deafness.


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