Young girl laying in bed enjoying music, she is listening to music via wireless headphones

Lower Volumes, Headphone Breaks Important for Ear Health

More than 1.5 billion people have some form of hearing loss, per the World Health Organization, and some of it’s due to excess noise exposure, a common but preventable cause.

One of the culprits? Headphone use at high sound volumes. Our own Dr. Brian Fligor, clinic audiologist-in-chief and president at Tobias & Battite, talked to CBS News about the impact on young people’s ears.

A boy smiles while listening to music on headphones

Growing Problem

According to the National Institutes of Health, about half of young people listen to music or other audio at unsafe volumes. Persistent loud sounds — or even a single incident — can lead to irreversible hearing loss, making education and prevention important.

“We are seeing pockets of young people who have worse hearing than you would expect,” said Fligor in the interview. With the ubiquity of earbuds, headphones, and personal audio players, it may be an even bigger challenge than many realize.


Ear Health

Excess noise can harm hair cells in the inner ear. The cells turn sound waves into electrical signals the brain can interpret. Most people start with about 16,000 of these cells, but infection, poor circulation, and aging can affect them. Destroyed cells don’t regrow (though science is on the case), and that can lead to hearing loss.

As many as 50% of the hair cells could sustain injury before a hearing test would uncover a measurable change in hearing, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A large number of the cells could be past the point of repair once the hearing loss can be detected.


Hearing Preservation

Protecting ears against excess noise starts with curbing exposure. The louder the sound and the longer it lasts, the greater the potential risk of hearing damage. Eliminating or moving away from the source — shutting off the sound or allowing long breaks from headphone use, for instance — can help.

Also critical: turning down the sound. Headphones at their highest volume can easily register 96 to 110 decibels, well beyond the 85-decibel danger threshold. A lower headphone volume helps preserve hearing while still letting the music shine.


4 Hearing-Health Facts

  • Across Massachusetts, about 1 in 5 have hearing loss. But only a fraction of people in the U.S. who could benefit from hearing technology use it.
  • Eliminating noise isn’t always possible, but hearing protection can help. Quality, custom-molded earplugs can deaden the loudest noises while allowing you to comfortably enjoy sound.
  • NIH offers a fun, kid-friendly, interactive look at common sounds and their decibel ranges. Just click the noise meter’s various sound types — “headphones,” for example — and gain helpful tips!
  • The free NIOSH Sound Level Meter app, compatible with iOS-based mobile devices, gives an instant ambient decibel rating. It doesn’t replace professional instruments or expert opinion, but it can help approximate noise.

Are you or a loved one often exposed to loud sounds at work, home, or play? Don’t wait. Contact our knowledgeable team today to book a free communication needs assessment. Let’s ensure you’re hearing your best so you can live your best.