Can the Use of Headphones and Earphones Cause Hearing Loss?
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Role of Headphones and Earphones in Hearing Loss

Published on Jan 13, 2023 and last reviewed on Jul 07, 2023   -  4 min read


Listening to sound from a source close to the ear for a long time can affect hearing, like in case earphones or headphones. Continue reading to know more.

Role of Headphones and Earphones in Hearing Loss


The headphones or earphones can harm hearing and result in ear damage. The damage caused by them may be temporary or permanent. If the damage is temporary, it will come back to normal after some time, but if the damage is permanent, then there is no cure but can use certain devices which will assist in hearing. The damage level will depend on two factors that is the volume level and the time duration. These two factors are very important when using these devices. Hearing loss from the use of headphones is commonly seen in teenagers and young adults, who are the main users of this.

What Is Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is the loss or reduced hearing affecting one or both ears. Hearing loss can vary from mild to severe. Hearing loss is usually seen in different age groups but is most commonly seen in people above the age of 60 years, but hearing loss due to the usage of headphones and earphones are usually seen in teens and younger adults. There are various reasons that can result in hearing loss. There are different types of hearing loss; they are conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss.

What Are the Symptoms of Hearing Loss?

The symptoms of hearing loss are different for each type of hearing loss. It is caused due to effects of the improper usage of headphones and earphones may include the following:

How Can Loud Noise Damage Hearing?

The headphones and earphones sound is played very near to the ear, which can be dangerous to the ear. Apart from that, they can produce very loud levels of sound. When this loud sound is played very near to the ear drum itself, it can be a threat to the normal functioning of the eardrum and may result in hearing loss. Generally, loud noises can impair hearing, so playing loud noise from earphones and headphones can be more harmful due to the proximity to the eardrum.

When the sound wave hits the eardrum, it causes them to vibrate, which is transmitted through small bones to the cochlea. The cochlea is a fluid-defiled chamber inside the ear. The cochlea contains thousands of hair-like cells. The sound waves cause disturbance in the fluid inside the cochlea and cause the hair cells to move. The hair cells send signals to the brain.

When playing a sound that is too loud for too long, these hair cells lose their sensitivity to vibrations. Many loud noises cause the hair cells to bend or fold over. This results in temporary hearing loss. They take time to recover from the vibrations caused due to very loud noises. In some cases, these hair cells do not recover. They may be too damaged to function normally. This will cause lasting hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is mostly permanent. There is no treatment for treating damaged inner ear.

What Is the Role of Headphones and Earphones in Hearing loss?

Headphones and earphones damage the ear the same way loud noise does, and is called noise-induced hearing loss. Due to longer duration exposure to loud noise from headphones or earphones, the hair cells in the cochlea bend too much or too severely, and if the recovery period is not enough for the hair cells, then the damage is permanent.

The damage caused by the headphones need not be just because of the loud noise alone; it can also be due to the longer duration of exposure. Even listening at moderate volume for a long time can result in hearing loss. This has the same effect on the ear as going to a concert, or loud machinery can have the same damage as caused due to louder gunshots or explosions. The duration of the sound exposure matters in the same way as the intensity of the voice.

The decibel ratings from different headphones vary; for example, headphones at 100 percent volume can make a noise level of 112 dB for the listener, which will result in hearing loss in minutes. The same headphone at 60 percent volume will have 80 dB, which is safe, also nearer the distance, the louder the noise. For this reason, it is comparatively safe to use over-the-ear headphones rather than using devices like earbuds and earphones.

How to Avoid Damage From Using Headphones or Earphones?

Avoiding damage caused due to the use of headphones or earphones is not a difficult thing to attain. The only thing to do is be more careful and sensible while using such things.

  • Decrease the Volume - Use headphones, earphones, or earbuds at an appropriate volume. The noise-induced hearing loss is caused due to exposure to loud noise.

  • Limit the Exposure - Other than using the headphones at a reasonable volume, limit the exposure time too. Do not listen to more than 60 percent of the volume for more than 60 minutes at a time. That is a rule that needs to be followed for a safe hearing.

  • Use Noise-Canceling Headphones - We play sound at high volume due to disturbance from the background noise. So noise-canceling headphones can be a better option as they will cancel out the background noise and use the headphone at a moderate volume.

  • Use Over-the-Ear Models - This type of device has more distance between the source and the ear than the in-ear models like earbuds and earphones.


The headphones and earphones are devices that will help to listen to music and other audio in a private manner. This provides a better experience than playing on other devices. Also, if it is not used in a proper manner can result in damage to the ear and will result in hearing loss that may be temporary or permanent. If there are any signs of hearing loss, consult a doctor immediately so that if the damage is not permanent, then the doctor can help in recovering, and also if the damage is permanent, then they can help in managing this with the hearing aids and other medical equipment.

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Last reviewed at:
07 Jul 2023  -  4 min read




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