SPECIAL REPORT: Think Twice Before You Plug in Headphones

By: Leah Kraus Email
By: Leah Kraus Email

Before you plug headphones into your iPod, think twice about it. You could be affecting your hearing for years to come. It all comes down to how loud you’re playing those tunes. And the younger you are the worse it can be.

"We have seen an increase in the incidents of hearing loss in younger people...teenagers and even younger," says Dr. Michael Dahlke, of ENT Associates. "You have a smaller volume for that sound pressure and therefore it can be worse in children than in adults."

On a weekly basis he sees a number of noise induced hearing loss. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears caused by loud noises, can strike at a young age and haunt you forever.

"When you start losing hearing from noise exposure, it's something that is permanent it's something that is not going to get better, but may increase and get worse or progress," he adds.

His advice is to check the maximum power output when you buy headphones and then only play music at half to two-thirds of the maximum volume.

Some experts say listening to music at full volume with earbuds for even five minutes can increase the chances of hearing loss. 90 decibals or higher is when you’re starting to get into the so-called "danger zone." But at most retail chains, earbuds are still selling fast. Target is one example.

"Mostly because of the price point they're definitely very affordable and on top of that they have adjustable ear buds, " says Melissa Cottrell, an Executive Team Leader at the store.

In fact, she says those over the ear headphones have gone out of style for the most part, unless you’re willing to spend top dollar. Such as headphones from beatstudio -- comfortable and with great sound quality. But the price, a steep $300, is expensive for many shoppers.

It's not just the type of headphones you use that pose a risk. Listening to loud music at a concert, or using a lawnmower or chain saw, or doing anything that causes a loud sound can hurt your hearing too. It’s not just doctors that are recommending ear muffs for protection – sales associates at ACE Hardware will tell you the same thing. You can find affordable ear muffs at many retail chains.

In the end, what you listen to today could affect your hearing twenty years down the road. Or even sooner.

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