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How do different types of headphones affect hearing?

How do different types of headphones affect hearing?
09 April 2023

    Although headphones have become as common and common as a smartphone, until now, you can hear conflicting statements about their harm to health. In-channel representatives of this category are especially often under attack. In this article, I will answer the question about the dangers of such an accessory for your hearing.

    Influence of in-ear headphones

    in- ear headphonesHarm:

    Now, the issue of the impact of headphones on our health is not discussed as intensively as it was a few years ago. At that time, every media resource about technology or health considered it a duty to express its perspective, backing it up with the arguments of a “qualified” specialist. At a distance, the technology nevertheless took root, and its main shortcomings became more objective due to research and a large sample of users. Based on statistics, feedback, and my experience, I can single out the 2 most important factors that negatively affect the health of our hearing: loudness and hygiene.


    The most active negative impact of loud sound is assigned to in-ear headphones. All because of their structure, which completely isolates the ear from the external environment, and the speaker itself is located as close as possible to the membrane. Thus, the sound wave reaches it with virtually no external interference, which means it is perceived as clearly and loudly as possible with a relatively low power of the speaker itself.

    • What loudness is harmful? In fact, it is, but for some reason, doctors and other “experts”, whose opinion I studied, do not consider the fact that the speakers in the in-ear devices are used by others. The purpose of any audio device is to bring sound to us, not to deafen us. For this reason, the further the device is used from the eardrum, the louder it will sound. But the maximum indicators of its volume within the framework of the method of operation will always be within the permissible norm. True, it is worth noting that this rate is always higher for headphones: if a portable speaker outputs up to 95 dB, then headphones can easily exceed 115 dB.
    • Optimal volume. The optimal volume, at which the hair cells of the inner ear (they are the ones that convert the mechanical vibration into an electromagnetic impulse) are not damaged, is 80 dB. According to a study by the American National Institute for Occupational Safety, at this volume, you can listen to music 24 hours a day without any harm. At 90 dB, this figure decreases sharply to 2.5 hours, 100 dB – 15 minutes, 110 dB – 90 seconds. 120 dB is already a threshold, any long listening to music on which will inevitably ruin your hearing. WHO (World Health Organization) recommendations are similar.
    The main problem is that hair cells do not recover after damage, so to get the usual volume, you will have to turn on the music louder and louder. But here it is already a matter of self-control and taking care of your health, and harm to the auditory organ can be done not only with headphones.


    DriversHow to care:

    Another significant drawback of in-ear headphones is the same structure, only in this case from the point of view of hygiene. A tight fit to the walls of the ear, coupled with active vibration from noise waves, leads to accelerated production of earwax, which is not entirely natural. In addition to this, among other types of headphones, in-ear headphones are more likely to be able to infect. This is especially true for those who carry their accessory in their pockets or bag, But such a problem relates purely to wired devices. With the advent of wireless headsets, the hygiene difficulty when using these headphones has become less common, as they are carried in a separate charging case. Can this factor be a reason for to consider in-ear headphones “harmful”? Hardly. Everything again rests on the individual approach of the user himself. If basic hygiene standards are not followed, even ordinary food can become harmful.

    In-ears and on-ear headphones

    In-ears are an equally common types of headphones, especially when it comes to Apple devices. Here the situation is no less subjective, since it is believed that due to the lack of a snug fit, third-party noise enters, which means the user has to turn up the volume to interrupt it. On the one hand, this is true, but such a structure greatly reduces pressure and vibrations inside the ear canals. Ears get tired much less from their use, and good audibility of the environment for many users is more an advantage than a disadvantage. Earbuds are often used as a headset for long-term daily use, and high-quality clear sound is not the most significant factor when buying them. On-ear headphonesOn the contrary, on-ear or full-size headphones are the best solution if you want to get the most surround and bass sound. There are dense ear cushions that provide the best passive noise reduction without contact with the inner ear channels. The speakers themselves are located much farther from the eardrums, and sound waves are more evenly distributed in them, which is why they are typically recommended as the safest option. But even in this case, it should be borne in mind that the remote location is leveled by the power and size of the same speakers. This means, that if the operating recommendations are not followed, even they can cause harm without any problems.


    People who call in-ear or any other headphones unhealthy are nothing more than simply opponents of new and quite practical technologies. Any technique requires compliance with the rules of operation, and if they are violated, it can harm both its integrity and the health of the owner. Just try not to listen to music at maximum volume for a long time, watch your hygiene and there will be no issues.
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