Will earphones damage my hearing?

Dear Doctor,

Are there any health risks of using headphones frequently, especially if they are not very loud? Bizimungu

Dear Bizimungu,

Use of headphones is increasingly becoming very common, particularly among young people. But this is a worrisome issue. People are using them in increasing numbers but are not aware of the health hazards posed by them.

Earphones can cause irritation and trauma inside the ears, particularly if the ear phones are worn out and or the edges are rough. Even with new ear phones, regular use can cause ear ache and perceived sounds. They can cause build-up of wax in the ears, which can cause ear pain and reduce hearing ability. Inserting ear phones inside the ears carries the risk of introducing microbes as well, causing infection within the ears. Risk is greater with shared ear phones. Ear infection manifests as ear pain with or without discharge, dizziness, nausea and even vomiting.

The biggest risk with earphones is of reduced hearing acuity. While using earphones, the audio sound goes directly in the ears. Volume exceeding 90 decibels can result in hearing complication and even hearing loss. Someone using ear phones at 100 decibels volume, even for 15 minutes, can suffer hearing loss.

Along with hearing loss, one can also suffer from sense of numbness in the ears.

Therefore it is advisable not to use head phones continuously for long hours, even at low volume. After about an hour, a break should be given. The earphones should be kept clean and preferably not shared. One should be vigilant to see that the edges should be smooth.