Thursday, September 2, 2010

Deafening sound: The down side of Headphones/Earphones


Hearing loss caused by prolonged use of headphones is worse than the kind of damage loudspeakers inflict on your ears. It may not irritate the neighbours, but high decibel music streaming in through earphones can deafen you by the time you hit 50

Deafening sound
In an average human body, hearing loss due to age after 55 is quite normal. The blood vessels start to thicken and cause very gradual hearing loss - at the rate of a decibel a year. This works out to a hearing impairment of 10 decibels by age 65, not a worrisome debility.

However, even teenagers and young adults are now being diagnosed with hearing loss. Tobacco use, which affects nerves, loud music that hurts the inner ear, and excessive use of mobile phones are definitely the main factors contributing to this new trend.

Interestingly, experts say that given the popularity of portable music gadgets such as iPods and mobile phones, it is now quite likely that headphones cause more hearing damage than loudspeakers. Listeners tend to make use of the acoustic isolation by listening at higher volumes. Moreover, the risk of hearing damage from headphones is higher than with loudspeakers, even at comparable volumes, because of the close proximity of the transducers and the ears.

Loud speakers V/S Headphones
So what is the basic difference between hearing damage caused by a loud speaker and a headphone? In loudspeakers, sounds travel several feet before reaching the listener's ears. By the time it arrives, a portion of the high frequencies has been absorbed by the air. With headphones, the ears hear all frequencies without any attenuation, because the transducers are literally pressed against them.
Another hearing abnormality likely to be caused by the prolonged use of headphones is a decreasing sensitivity to sound levels. Over time, as the ears adapt to loud sounds, the listener perceives a gradual drop in loudness given the same volume setting.

Sound Tips
- Some level of hearing loss from portable stereos occurs when used in noisy conditions. Use as little as possible while on the road
- Wearing headphones during exercise is also dangerous for your hearing. Aerobic exercise diverts blood from the ears to the limbs and leaves the inner ear more vulnerable to damage from loud sounds. - The risk of hearing loss is doubled when listening to headphones at high volume during aerobic exercise
- Practise the 60 per cent/60 minute rule. Use personal music devices for no more than about an hour a day and at levels below 60 per cent of the maximum volume
- To avoid hearing loss, use old-fashioned larger headphones that rest over the ear opening
Use noise-cancelling headphones. Unlike ear buds, noisecancelling headphones eliminate background noise

Sounds like trouble
Ringing or buzzing in the ears, difficulty in understanding speech, slight muffling of sounds, difficulty in understanding speech in noisy places or places with poor acoustics are pointers to visit an ENT specialist. More severe symptoms of hearing damage can include acute or chronic dizziness, pain, discomfort, and drainage from the ears.

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