Since we are staring at our phones and desktops for longer periods of time these days, we are wearing earbuds or headphones more often. We wear our earbuds to workout, watch videos or movies, or listen to podcasts and music. Most of the time when you are wearing earbuds, you are trying to decompress or relax. But, just like how staring at a computer screen for too long can damage your eyes, wearing earbuds can do some harm to your ears as well.

Potential Hearing Loss

The first problem with earbuds is that they are very close to your eardrum. When earbuds are at their maximum volume, they can generate 85-110 decibels. According to the CDC, 80-85 decibels, which is equivalent to a gas-powered lawnmower, can cause ear damage after two hours of exposure. When wearing your earbuds at work, you’re probably wearing them much longer than just two hours.

When exposed to 100 decibels, which is equivalent to an approaching subway train, hearing loss can be experienced in just 15 minutes. Headphones are different. They are not placed directly into your ear and the decibels can vary with brand. It is also important to know that decibels decrease with distance. So, headphones that you wear over your ears are better for your hearing since they are not placed directly into your ears. Just make sure to not play your music at full volume. 

Ear Infections

Wearing earbuds or headphones creates a perfect environment in your ear that allows bacteria to grow. The temperature inside your ear increases when earbuds are put on, giving bacteria a more comfortable environment to multiply. Also, earbuds are usually left on random surfaces such as your desk, in your purse or shoved in your pocket. This allows them to pick up more dirt and bacteria that then can be placed in your ear. Earbuds can also push earwax back into your ear. Usually, your ears are able to get rid of excess earwax naturally. But when there are earbuds blocking the ear canal, there can be a build-up of earwax. An excess amount of earwax can block hearing since it prevents sound from reaching your eardrum. 

How to Prevent Negative Side Effects

There are multiple ways to prevent the negative side effects of wearing earbuds for too long. The obvious first step is to turn down the volume. Music may sound better when the volume is at full blast or close to it, but you will not be able to listen to music when you are sixty. The second step is to use headphones that go over your ear. As mentioned earlier before, decibels decrease with distance. So the more distance you can create with your eardrum and your headphones the better. The last step you can take to prevent any negative side effects is to wear earbuds less often. Instead of listening to music or videos, you could read a book or go for a walk. If you are able to complete these steps, you can keep your hearing in a healthy state for a long time.