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Over 50 million Americans have hearing loss. But it isn’t just seniors who experience hearing loss. Younger adults, teens, and even children have higher rates of hearing loss than ever before. So what happened? It could have something to do with earbud use.


Hearing Loss in Teens

According to the CDC, Noise-induced hearing loss is becoming more and more common among teenagers. Researchers estimate that between 12.8% and 17.5% of teens aged 12 to 19 have some hearing loss! 


Noisy Learning Environments

Schools can be very loud, and some learning activities could be extremely loud. Most children are not provided with hearing protection during classes or loud activities. Most schools also don’t teach kids how to properly put in earplugs.


Noise from Earbuds

Even more prevalent than noisy classrooms and gym classes are earbuds. Children and teens often spend hours every day plugged into their phones, either listening to music or watching videos or other media. Young adults also listen to a lot of music or audio. It can make the commute seem faster or bring a sense of focus at work.

Unfortunately, what many people don’t realize is that your phone can be very loud. Turning up the volume all the way, and wearing earbuds to blast that music right into your ears, can cause permanent hearing loss! It might not even take very long. With the volume maxed out, you can experience permanent changes in your hearing in as little as an hour.


It’s All About the Volume

Earbuds or headphones aren’t the real issues here. Earbuds have been around for a long time, but they haven’t been causing hearing loss until recently. People used to enjoy music with Walkmans and other music players. The problem now is the volume. Smartphones are a lot more powerful and can reach extremely loud volumes. 

When sounds get loud enough, they can cause hearing loss. And earbuds are pressed right into your ear canals, so all the sound goes straight into your ears.


How Loud Is Too Loud?

So how can you know how loud is too loud when you’re listening with earbuds? One way to determine if sounds are too loud is to listen to your music for a bit, then pull out your earbuds. If you hear a ringing noise in your ears, the volume was far too loud. Do sounds seem a bit muffled? That’s another sign that your music was very loud, and you may have caused some permanent damage to your ears.

You can also ask the person next to you if they can hear your music. If someone close to you can hear the music, it’s much too loud, and you’re harming your ears. 

Finally, think about the last time you had a conversation somewhere with background noise. Was it difficult to follow the conversation? This is an early warning sign of hearing loss, and a sign that your listening habits may be to blame.


Protecting Your Hearing

The best way to protect your hearing is to turn down the volume. Never turn up the volume higher than 60%, even to drown out background noise. It’s tempting to turn up the volume on your commute to work, or whenever background sounds get distracting. But turning up the volume too high can cause permanent hearing loss. If you have children or teens, teach them safe listening practices as well. 

Rather than turning up the volume, invest in noise-canceling headphones that will block out background sounds. You’ll be able to enjoy your music without turning up the volume too high.


Take Breaks

Along with turning down the volume on your listening device, take frequent breaks when using earbuds. At least once every hour, turn off your music and take out your earbuds. Give your ears a chance to rest for a few minutes before putting your earbuds back in.


Schedule a Hearing Test

You might not notice the signs of hearing loss at first. That’s why it’s important to book a hearing test. Adults should get a hearing test every three to five years, or more often if they notice changes in their hearing health.

A hearing test will show you more about your hearing health, your hearing threshold at each pitch, and if your hearing has changed at all since your last hearing test, so you’ll know the moment you need to treat hearing loss.