Before the Sony Walkman came along in 1979, headphone listening was limited to when you could be wired to your stereo. Today, though, people wear their ‘phones and ‘buds for hours and hours at a time. But does all that headphone listen damage hearing? And if so, how much.
Vice takes a look.
You live in a big city, which means you spend 75 percent of your day with earbuds lodged in your external auditory meatus. You listen to podcasts on the subway, and queue up a Spotify playlist to stay focused amidst your workplace’s open office plan. After work you exercise to the sweet sounds of EDM and bass-heavy pop, and then commute home to NPR updates. Finally in for the night, you might log into HBO Go and, so as not to disturb your roommate, plug in your buds and snuggle up with your laptop. As you take out your sweat-encrusted earbuds and put them on the nightstand, you wonder: Are you damaging your hearing by spending most of your waking hours with two miniature speakers stuffed in your ears?
In 2015, the World Health Organization issued a statement echoing your mom, warning that 1.1 billion young people are at risk of permanent hearing loss due to loud music from personal devices and the decibel levels at events. The WHO analyzed data from studies in “middle- and high-income countries” and found that almost 50 percent of residents 12 to 35 were exposed to unsafe noise levels from personal devices like smart phones and iPods, and 40 percent got a potentially damaging earful at venues like bars, nightclubs, sports stadiums and concert spaces.
How loud is too loud? The WHO said that noise levels of more than 85 decibels were dangerous during an eight-hour duration, like a work shift, and 100 decibels shouldn’t be endured for more than 15 minutes.