Noise cancelling headphones tinnitus

Can Constantly Using My Headphones Cause Tinnitus?

Too Much Exposure to Any Loud Noise Causes Hearing Loss, and It’s on the Rise Among Young People

Tinnitus is more common in people older than 55 because it’s natural to experience hearing loss as you get older (and hearing loss is one of the most common causes of tinnitus). But hearing loss is becoming more common in younger individuals, and research suggests exposure to loud noises is likely to blame. (2,3)

In today’s world, we’re all frequently exposed to a lot of noises (and a lot of loud noises at that). But for younger individuals in particular, many popular activities tend to be loud ones. Think practicing loud hobbies like hunting, taking workout classes with music blasting, or attending noisy sports games and concerts. And it’s getting more and more common to spend more of the day with headphones on — whether you’re listening to music when while exercising, commuting, getting work done, or even sleeping.

All this constant noise exposure — coming through headphones and other sources — can contribute to damage to hearing and, possibly, the structure of the inner ear, Zitelli says.

The American Osteopathic Association says one in five teenagers experiences hearing loss in one way or another. That’s about 30 percent higher than rates in the 1980s and 1990s. (4) The World Health Organization estimates about 1.1 billion young people are at risk of losing their hearing because of how often and how loudly they listen to their personal audio devices and attend noisy events. (5)

Kit Frank, an audiologist at New York University’s Langone Health in New York City, says hearing loss is something she’s seeing more and more of in her young patients. And she suspects headphones are partially to blame. “It’s just a more common thing to have something in your ear, and we’re putting more stress on the ears than we’ve ever done before,” she says.

A study involving Swedish adolescents found a link between wearing headphones and listening at high volumes and having poor hearing. The study also found teens who spent three hours or more at a time with headphones on were more likely to experience tinnitus than those who didn’t use headphones as long. (6)

Tinnitus (that hissing, ringing, or buzzing in the ear) generally develops when people start to lose the ability to hear sounds from the environment around them. (7)

In some cases tinnitus can be temporary, when people experience it for a short period of time after going to a loud concert or listening to headphones or other speakers too loudly. The buzzing or hissing may die down after a short time, but it may have left permanent damage to the hair cells in the ear. These hair cells control your ability to hear, and when damaged, hearing loss can result. (8) But these hair cells get damaged slowly over time, which means hearing loss develops gradually.

Research is currently focusing on how to promote regrowth of these hair cells, but until there’s a solution, it’s important to focus on protecting the ones you have already, which you can do by listening to your headphones at safe levels.

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Noise-canceling headphones reduce background sounds such as the roar of an airplane engine, the rumble of a train and highway noise. They do this by producing an “anti-noise” sound wave that interferes with and cancels out unwanted background noise. They contain a microphone placed near the ear and electronic circuitry that generates the opposing sound. Unlike cell phones, noise-cancelling headphones do not emit low level radiation and do not pose any of the potential hazards that could stem from frequent use of a cell phone held next to the ear.

Actually, noise-cancelling headphones can be beneficial, since both loud noises and constant low-level noise can lead to health problems. Acute loud noises can damage hearing, interfere with sleep, raise blood pressure and stress levels and cause headaches. As for low-level noise, a study published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America in March, 2001, found that Austrian children who live in neighborhoods with constant low-level noise (mostly from automobile and train traffic) had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than youngsters who lived in quieter neighborhoods. And a study published in the February, 2006, issue of the European Heart Journal found that heart attack risk was higher among people exposed to chronic noise.

I actually recommend noise-canceling headphones to help avert the health problems noise exposure can present. By neutralizing surrounding noise, kids can listen to music without turning up the volume so high that poses a risk to their hearing. The sound quality of the music (or whatever else you’re listening to) may not be as good as it is with non-canceling high quality audio headphones, according to a 2007 review of these products I read in The New York Times, and with some of these devices you can hear a hissing noise when music is not playing. But overall, I think you would be doing your kids (and their hearing) a favor by giving them noise-canceling headphones.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Human beings and a lot of other animals are equipped with an anatomy that enables us to gather sounds from the environment and have the brain process it.

Hearing is one of the most underrated abilities that we have been endowed with. We have our ears to thank for that. Since we have ears, we are able to communicate, maintain our balance and enjoy music.

Most of people turn to music for different purposes. Music for some is a form of relaxation, to some; it is a way to express themselves vicariously through the lyrics.

In enjoying music, we have grown accustomed to using gadgets that allow us to enjoy music without outside noise interference.

What are noise-cancelling headphones?

So far most of us who are passionate about music whether while travelling, on-the-go, or enjoying music in general, a good pair of headphones is a big deal. For this, noise-cancelling headphones are a good investment.

These headphones are custom-built to effectively eliminate outside noise. The premise here is; to be able to enjoy music quietly without having to turn up the volume; outside noise should be lessened or at least should not overpower the music.

Since there is a factor of close range proximity to the ears when we use headphones, there have been concerns as to if it may cause damage to our ears. We will examine the facts about this and by the end of the article figure out if using headphones really do damage to our ears and specifically, if it does cause tinnitus.

How do our ears work?

Our ears are made up of three parts; the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. All the parts have their own function that contributes to how we hear sounds. All the parts also play a role in regulating the sounds that we hear.

a)Outer Ear – this is the part of the ear that you see from the outside. The ear canal which we clean regularly up to the ear drum is also part of the outer ear. This part of the ear is responsible for directing the sound waves that enter the ear to the eardrum.

b)Middle Ear – This extends from the eardrum to a space in the head filled with air and that houses three of the smallest bones in our body. When the sound vibrations reach this part of the ear, it is intensified and is further led into the inner ear. This is also the part of the ear that reduces the loudness of the overly loud sounds that we hear.

c)Inner ear – This is where the hearing mechanism happens. The cochlea has hair cells that converts the vibrations into electrical signals which are then sent to the brain. Hair cells adjust to the intensity of the sounds that our ears receive. They modulate the loudness and they amplify softer ones.

How much noise can our ears take?

In general we can define noise as an unpleasant sound that may be too loud or unwelcome and that causes disturbance. There is a certain amount of noise that determines how tolerable it can be.

This is measured by the intensity of the noise (volume) and the length of exposure to the certain noise (duration). We can say noise is loud when you find that your hearing has been dulled after hearing a sudden loud noise.

It also means you have temporarily damaged hearing. With this, exposure to loud noise should further be prevented because it may lead to permanent damage.

Also you need to raise your voice so you can be heard over the noise. This is when you know that the sounds around you are potentially damaging. Raising your voice to a shout only means that the intensity of the sounds aside from your voice is far too strong so you can only overcome it by shouting.

If you are in this predicament, remove yourself from the situation immediately.You already feel headache hearing the sounds around you, then it is already causing strain to your ears and may lead to severe damage.

When we hear noise, not only should the loudness be considered but also the period of time we are exposed to it. In average, for an 8-hour period, the loudest noise that a person should be exposed to should only be equivalent to that of the blender when it is on.

From this it can be deemed that the prolonged exposure to loud sounds can be damaging to the ear but it doesn’t mean that exposure to very loud sounds in a short period of time won’t do any damage.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is when you hear a persistent buzzing sound in your ear even if there is no source from the outside. This is very discomforting and cause anxiety. This condition is more prevalent among people 55 and older.

As we get older, it is normal to lose part of our hearing abilities. However, this condition has not been exclusively limited to older people now. Regardless of age, we are now exposed to many types of noise and most of them at very high intensities, too.

More and more activities and habits among young people expose them to a lot of loud noises like partying, concerts and loud sports, among many others.

Tinnitus is the persistent ringing in your ears that can hinder you from hearing anything else from your environment.

Do headphones cause tinnitus?

It is very important to note that it has been more common now to use headphones every day. Activities like running, watching movies on smaller gadgets, and even sleeping have us become more attuned to our headphones for better sound quality and mostly to drown out the noise outside.

With all that, the answer is yes, but it is not the only cause. At the same time it is a combination of prolonged exposure to loud sounds and the intensity of the sounds that can cause lasting damage.

These sounds do not just come from headphones but there are some ways that can contribute to the damage:

1. Exposure to very loud sounds from blasting music while wearing headphones can cause temporary tinnitus and possibly progress to worse cases.

2. While headphones focus the sound from our devices to our ears for better enjoyment, we are also causing more stress to our ears by doing so. Remember the hair cells? Prolonged exposure to stress can damage them permanently and take note that they are crucial to modulating the intensity of the sounds we hear.

3. We wear headphones for hours so we are causing too much strain to the ear without giving them proper time to recover. Do using noise-cancelling headphones make a difference?

Noise-cancelling headphones do a good job of isolating the noise from the environment. Due to this, there will no longer be a need to have the volume up since the quality is already good even with lower volume levels.

In general headphones alone do not directly cause tinnitus. It is the frequency of use and the volume levels to which you listen to sounds through headphones are what can lead to hearing problems.

To avoid such condition, you can take note of the following:

1. Choose headphones properly.

As with almost everything else, the quality of the accessory or the gadget can play a role in the damage that it can do over periodic use. In this case, the type of headphones can greatly make a difference in how the device affects us.

It is highly recommended to choose over the ear headphones rather than ear buds that go directly into the ear. If you prefer ear buds since headphones are too big for your convenience, then choose loose-fitting ones. The point is to keep them from getting too deep into the ear.

There are many types of noise-cancelling headphones and you are free to choose whichever suits you.Before you continue reading this article, please have a look at the best noise cancelling headphones we have come to find out based on user experience and hearing safety. check out the reviews please.


Bose QC 35 (II)

Sony WH1000 XM2

Sennheiser HD1

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2. Pace your use.

We know that music can greatly help a lot for concentration and to avoid louder noise from the outside but it does need to be regulated. There is a concept called 60-60 rule. This is when they prescribe having to listen to music from your device using headphones for 60 minutes and at only 60 percent volume.

After that, you should give your ears a breather’ from all the sounds it has been exposed to for the past hour.

To summarize: Our ears can only take a certain level of loudness for a period of time before it shows signs of damage.Prolonged exposure to noise can cause temporary damage that may be permanent if not addressed.

Headphones alone do not cause tinnitus. Noise-cancelling headphones limit the noise interference from the outside effectively removing the need to crank up the volume of what we’re listening to.

The key to avoiding hearing damage while still being able to enjoy the use of headphones is to regulate and pace our usage.There are a lot of things that we are able to enjoy because we have ears that allow us to. It is our responsibility to take the necessary precaution to avoid damaging them.

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  3. Are noise cancelling headphones safe or dangerous
  4. Do noise cancelling headphones worth it
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Five ways to make ringing stop after a concert

There is a variety of ways to help ease ringing in the ears, including:

1. Reduce exposure to loud sounds

Share on PinterestListening to soft music through over-ear headphones may help distract from the ears ringing.

While the ears can often recover from damage, it is still important to reduce exposure to loud sounds when experiencing tinnitus.

This may mean talking quietly, avoiding loud bars or events, and avoiding in-ear headphones. Watching television or listening to the radio at lower volumes than usual may also help the ears recover.

2. Distraction

Sometimes, a person only notices ringing in the ears when there are no other sounds to compete with it. In these cases, it may help to distract the ears from the ringing by listening to soft music or an engaging podcast.

Meditation and yoga may also help take the focus off of the ringing. These techniques may also help reduce stress, which is sometimes a contributing factor to tinnitus.

3. White noise

If the ringing causes trouble sleeping, it may help to use some gentle white noise to distract the brain from focusing on the sound.

Some people find the hum of a room fan is enough to allow them to sleep. Others prefer the sounds of ocean waves or the static from a television to help them sleep.

4. Head tapping

Another method to help reduce or eliminate ringing in the ears after a concert is a type of head tapping.

Head tapping involves a few simple steps:

  • Place the palms over the ears, resting the fingers at the base of the skull in the back of the head.
  • Keeping the ears covered with the palms, raise the index fingers up and tap the back of the head. This should produce a sound inside the head that is similar to the tap of a drum.
  • Gently tap the head around 50 times.
  • Repeat the process a few times each day as needed for relief.

5. Reducing alcohol and caffeine

People with ringing in their ears after a concert are often told to stop drinking alcohol and caffeine. While there is little scientific evidence to back up this claim, some people may find that reducing the amount of caffeine or alcohol they drink could help reduce their symptoms.

How loud music damages hearing

Inside the cochlea (our hearing organ that sits deep inside our ears), there are thousands of sound-sensing cells called hair cells. These tiny cells are essential for hearing: they pick up sound waves and turn them into electrical signals that are sent to the brain and interpreted as sound.

Experts agree that hair cells can start to become damaged by noise at 85dB and above. That’s a problem when you consider that music at clubs and concerts is often around 110dB, and some headphones play music that’s just as loud when the volume is turned right up.

When you’re exposed to too much loud noise, the hair cells become overstimulated. Once this happens, they become fatigued and stop responding to sound. This can result in temporary hearing loss that you may recognise as dulled hearing – it can last from a few minutes to a few days. At first, after a break from loud noise, the hair cells recover. But if you continue listening to music that’s too loud, over time the hair cells may lose their ability to recover and die. The hearing loss becomes noticeable – and it’s permanent.

Research has shown that when hair cells are damaged, neurons (nerve cells in the brain) start searching for electrical signals that aren’t being received from the ear and may become hyperactive. It’s been suggested that this hyperactivity makes the brain more aware of the electrical ‘noise’ from the neurons, which is heard as tinnitus. Again, this can be temporary, but with continued exposure to loud music, it’s likely that the tinnitus will become permanent.

Find out how loud everyday sounds are

Five People Told Us What They Do For Their Tinnitus

A version of this article originally appeared on Tonic Netherlands.

After performing in bands for a decade, listening to music on headphones with the volume cranked up all the way, and dancing next to the loudspeakers at concerts more times than I can remember, I’ve realized that my ears aren’t indestructible. Up until recently, the ringing I heard in my ear the morning after exposure to loud noises would eventually disappear. And then one day it didn’t. The ringing was here to stay.

Fifty million people in America have tinnitus. They experience a constant ringing, buzzing, hissing, chirping, or whistling sound in one or both ears. This phantom sound is a symptom of an underlying cause that often remains undiscovered. Though there have been some scientific developments that fill patients with hope, a real cure hasn’t been found. For now, the only thing people with tinnitus can do is learn to live with it.

During the first few weeks after I was diagnosed, the constant ringing in my ears nearly drove me insane. Nights were the worst; I would sit up in bed looking for AMSR videos, white noise tracks, or tones that somehow cover up the phantom sound (and the feeling of panic it causes) so the ringing would stop—if only for a little while. Three years later, my ears still scream at me from inside my own head. I’m past the point where I scour the internet for videos or sounds that help. But I still wonder how others with tinnitus deal with the noise, so I asked six people for advice. Did anything actually help, or did their search for relief end in disappointment?

Dominique, 28

I’m a DJ and I never used to wear any ear protection. About three and a half years ago, I developed tinnitus. At first I’d lay awake night after night and needed white noise to fall asleep. I left my PlayStation 3 on because it made this buzzing sound. But after a while, the buzzing was more annoying than the ringing in my ears.

My doctor gave me prednisone initially. It helped, but the tinnitus slowly reemerged. I asked the doctor to give me a referral to an ENT, but I was told that I just had to learn to live with it. So I decided to take matters into my own hands again. I knew a fellow DJ friend of mine also struggled with hearing problems and I asked him for advice. He recommended going to for an educational course about tinnitus and hyperacusis. But even after that workshop I wasn’t able to deal with the tinnitus; I was constantly afraid it would get worse and, because of it, I couldn’t DJ or go out anymore.

The audiologist who led the workshop I took told me about an organization that provides mental health care and social services to people who are deaf or who experience hearing loss. In about ten group sessions, I learned how to deal with the ringing; other people in the course also shared how they cope with it. I slowly started to accept the tinnitus a bit more.

Even though I hear about ten different noises in my head these days and I also have hyperacusis, I’ve been sleeping without white noise for the past six months. It’s been very difficult and I don’t think I’ll ever completely come to terms with it. But when I’m laying in bed and I hear all sorts of things, I try to focus my thoughts towards something nice. I do understand that this isn’t as easy for people who hear a 60 to 80 decibel sound. I’m still scared sometimes that the tinnitus will get worse. But, to be blunt, I don’t give a shit anymore. I’m going out partying like I used to and I’m even going back to being a DJ. Fuck it.

Robbert, 28

There wasn’t a particular moment when I heard for the first time. The tinnitus slowly grew as I went out in loud environments without earplugs—we all know the ringing sound you hear the morning after . In addition to that , I sometimes experience crackling noises when I hear certain sounds or frequencies, especially sirens.

I have other hearing issues on top of tinnitus. When I was little, my hearing would sometimes just give out and suddenly I’d barely hear anything. A hearing test I took when I was 23 showed that I don’t hear as well in one ear. That only bothers me with sounds that are 16 KHz or higher frequencies—those sounds sometimes just disappear or the tinnitus masks them.

Being aware of my already helps a lot. I wear custom-made earplugs to avoid further damage. If I don’t have those on me, I’ll put something else in my ears—earplugs you can buy at the club, for instance. The less I sleep and the more stressed I am, the louder the ringing gets. So relaxing and accepting it are really the only things you can do. For me, that’s an endless battle. I’m very aware of the ringing and whether or not it’s getting worse. I get paranoid about it at times, and when that happens the ringing does seem louder; it’s a negative vicious cycle. I’m a professional musician and I need my ears in order to make a living.

One thing that helps is training my hearing and my attentiveness. When I’m in public, I try to follow multiple conversations at once. If I’m waiting for the ferry, for instance, I try to listen to a handful of conversations around me. Working on that technique helps me to follow conversations in restaurants, clubs, or at birthday parties. You don’t get tired as quickly and don’t feel isolated because you have a hard time hearing the conversation. It takes a bit more energy to listen, but having to say “huh” and “what” constantly isn’t very charming either.

Another piece of advice: Buy a good pair of headphones. Listen with the purest audio possible so you don’t have to crank it up. Tinnitus isn’t just caused by clubs or concerts; cheap headphones can be harmful too.

Ravi, 47

I’ve had tinnitus in my left ear for eight years, and two years ago I started getting it in my right ear too. While I was sleeping, I slapped a mosquito on my ear. It made my entire ear close up. The doctor gave me oil to drip into my ear, but that caused a bacterial infection which ultimately damaged a nerve. In the beginning I tried a bunch of different medications, sleeping pills, Ritalin, all prescribed by my physician. But acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen—all of those painkillers just made it ten times worse.

The only thing that has a really calming effect on me is THC. It doesn’t get rid of the ringing, but it lessens my anxious response to the sound and helps me focus while other people are talking. It also helps me sleep. Playing the guitar also has a positive impact: The sound of the music helps combat the noise in my head somehow. But it really depends on the person. THC made tinnitus unbearable for one of my friends—he finds relief in acupuncture instead. And some people say taking zinc lessens their symptoms.

I can’t handle concerts or parties anymore; the tinnitus is louder than anything else and it stays like that for days . Even with custom earplugs my ears start to hum and it’s unbearable. I avoid stress and screaming people as much as I can. To make people understand what it is I’m actually hearing, I uploaded the sound to YouTube. It’s like nails on a chalkboard.

My advice for other people who have tinnitus: Don’t give up hope. Put yourself first, know what you can endure, and try to not cross that line. You need to live with it. Others only have to show some understanding, whenever possible—and if they don’t, it’s too bad.

Nicolette, 44

I’ve had tinnitus and hearing damage my entire life. According to my ENT, I was born with it. I constantly hear a low ringing noise.

By now, I’ve tried many things to lessen the impact of my tinnitus: acupuncture, ear candling, listening to special sounds and music, wearing a hearing aid that transmits an opposing frequency, and reiki. The special sounds and music helped me the most. They didn’t get rid of the tinnitus, but they lessened its intensity. Perhaps because it had a calming effect; kind of like a meditation. Those sounds came on a cassette tape—at some point it broke and I never bought a new one.

I’ve also tried an expensive hearing aid that’s supposed to cover up the tinnitus, but it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t get used to it and it made me antsy. Now I wear a hearing aid that amplifies other people’s voices. I sometimes see the upside of not being able to hear everything. Annoying sounds are muffled and I don’t mind the neighbor’s noises as much as my husband does.

Up until now, nothing has helped me in a lasting or structural way. I do know that stress makes the rustling sound worse. I try to avoid it, but sometimes it can’t be helped. Generally, I play music at a low volume to distract myself. At this point, I’m used to tinnitus; I live with it and it doesn’t keep me up at night. I don’t know any better.

José, 34

I developed tinnitus after a car accident almost four years ago. thought his phone was more important than paying attention to the road. My head slammed into the headrest and I’ve heard a constant ringing in my left ear ever since. it sounds a bit like the noise you sometimes hear when you plug a charger into an outlet.

While I was recovering I had all sorts of treatments—a few of those were specifically meant to help me deal with tinnitus. Mindfulness training was the most helpful thing for me. It taught me to focus very intently on one thing—something other than the ringing. I also try to listen with my other ear and kind of ignore the ear that rings and pretend like it isn’t there.

The sound still annoys me a lot but I’ve gotten better at tuning it out. It might also be a matter of accepting that it’s there. It used to keep me up at night, but nowadays it mainly bothers me when it’s quiet during the day. Because of that, I always have the TV or the radio on. If I hear other sounds around me, I’m not as bothered by it.
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Experts are warning against excessive use of MP3 players because of the potential adverse impact on the listener’s hearing. The risk of permanent hearing loss can increase with exposure of just five minutes a day to music at full volume.

The main culprits

Ear bud headphones are small ear pieces that can be inserted into the ear. They can boost the signal by as much as six to nine dB. That’s about the difference between the sound of a vacuum cleaner and a motorcycle, according to Dean Garstecki, professor at Northwestern University in the United States.
The inherent risk of excessive volume when using ear bud headphones makes them more hazardous to use than the older and larger muff-type earphones, which used to be the standard with Walkman and portable CD players. The ear buds positioned inside the ears are not as efficient at blocking outside sounds as the cushioned headsets. As a result, the volume knob often gets an extra turn to drown out the outside noise. To make matters even worse, the loud noise from the earphones is produced right inside the ear.

60-60 rule

Hearing advocates are pressing for people to turn down the volume. Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston recommend that no MP3 player should ever be used at full volume. Instead, the volume should be kept at no higher than 60 percent of the maximum and that it should be used for no more than about 60 minutes a day.


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Chances are that all you know about earbuds is that they’re easy to carry around and they sound good. Earbuds are useful little devices as long as they’re used at low volumes. But they’re basically a pair of tiny speakers that you wear inside your ears. And loud music playing that close to your eardrum can cause permanent hearing loss.

How Earbuds Damage the Ears

Believe it or not, earbuds can damage your hearing in the same way that things like chainsaws and motorcycles can. That may seem weird because earbuds are so small. But the damage is all in the volume.

Chainsaws and motorcycle engines create about 100 decibels of sound. That much sound can start to damage a person’s ears after less than half an hour. An MP3 player at 70% of its top volume is about 85 decibels. Turning the volume up and listening for long periods of time can put you in real danger of permanent hearing loss.

Hearing loss from earbuds is an example of a condition called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). This kind of hearing loss is becoming more of a problem among kids and teens.

How Does Noise Cause Hearing Loss?

The ear is made up of three parts that work together to process sounds: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. Part of the inner ear called the cochlea contains tiny hair cells. These hair cells help send sound messages to the brain. But loud noise can damage the hair cells. When this happens, the cochlea can’t relay sound messages to the brain as well.

Unlike damage to other parts of your body, inner ear damage never heals. Over time, as more and more hair cells get damaged, your hearing will get worse and worse.

What to Do

Noise-induced hearing loss from using earbuds usually takes a while. Because it happens gradually, a lot of people don’t know they have a problem until it’s too late.

Signs you may have hearing loss are:

  • ringing, buzzing, or roaring in your ears after hearing a loud noise
  • muffling or distortion of sounds

What should you do if you think you have signs of hearing loss? Call your doctor. The doctor may examine you and send you to see an audiologist. The audiologist will most likely give you a series of tests to determine how much your hearing has been affected.

The audiologist can also answer any questions you might have about using earbuds and about protecting your hearing.

Using Earbuds the Right Way

Noise-induced hearing loss due to earbuds is 100% preventable if you use them in moderation.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “All things in moderation.” Not overdoing things is true whether you’re eating chocolate cake or using earbuds. The more cake you eat, the faster you’ll gain weight. The louder the volume, the faster hearing loss can happen.

So what does moderation mean when it comes to using earbuds? Doctors recommend the 60%/60-minute rule:

  • Listen to music or play a movie or video game at no more than 60% of the maximum volume.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend with earbuds in your ears to 60 minutes.

Here’s another trick you can use to find out if your earbuds are at a safe volume: Ask people sitting near you if they can hear your music. If they can, it’s a sign that your hearing is being damaged. Turn the volume down until other people can no longer hear it.

Hearing loss isn’t the only problem that earbuds can cause. Listening to music at a loud volume can make you unaware of what’s going on around you. That increases your chances of an accident. If you’re running on a bike path, for example, it’s hard to hear a cyclist shout, “Heads up!” when your music drowns out all other sounds.

Are There Other Options?

It might feel like every phone or music player comes packaged with a tiny pair of earbuds. After all, they’re cheap to manufacture and easy to use.

So what can you do? Go retro with headphones. There’s a reason they’re making a comeback. Sometimes old-school is better.

Most electronics stores have entire sections devoted to headphones. The best headphones, noise-canceling headphones, help block out other noises. That way, you don’t have to turn up the volume on your music as loud to hear it well. Noise-canceling headphones may be good for staying focused on studying or homework, but they’re not great choices if you need to hear the world around you.

Headphones that go over your ears can also damage your hearing if you use them too long or play music too loudly. They’re just not as much of a risk as earbuds are: Having the source of the sound in your ear canal can increase a sound’s volume by 6 to 9 decibels — enough to cause some serious problems.

Earbuds exist because so many of us love music. So you probably want to protect your hearing so you can continue to appreciate music. That’s why it helps to know about the risks of earbuds (and other noise hazards) so you can take steps to be safe.

Reviewed by: Danielle Inverso, AuD, PhD Date reviewed: January 2015

How to protect your hearing when using headphones

We are all using headphones more often than ever. But how many of us realise the potential health implications?
The use of headphones has become acceptable in nearly all aspects of life. You can almost guarantee that the person sitting next to you on the train will be using them. The ability to stream, listen or watch 24 hours a day is relatively new, but we all take it for granted. But with so much headphone use we could actually be damaging our hearing through over exposure.
Back in 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that “Noise-induced hearing loss is the major avoidable cause of permanent hearing impairment worldwide”. And worryingly, more recently they stated that 1.1 billion people, notably teenagers and young adults, are at risk of hearing loss through unsafe use of headphones (WHO, 2015).
Sales of mobile phones and tablets are increasing year on year, all of which come with a pair of headphones. Just open your kitchen drawer, and you’ll probably find several pairs. This now affects all age groups, including our children, as we all plug our headphones in whether we’re at the gym, commuting or letting the kids use the iPad. All of which could be actually damaging our hearing through over exposure. Limiting screen time is a popular topic with parents, but how often do they discuss limiting headphone time?
Over exposure to loud noise can cause noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus, which is ringing, hissing, buzzing and other similar sounds in the ear that are not from an external source.

So, what can be done to protect our hearing and reduce the risks of getting tinnitus?

The obvious answer is to turn the volume down. But what we actually mean is limit the exposure. The louder you listen the shorter you should listen. Turn the volume down and listen longer.
Applying these rules personally is hard so getting children to comply would be even more difficult. After all, we’re all guilty of turning the volume up at times, normally as a direct result of the ambient background noise level of your surroundings.
Luckily, there are some helpful settings within your devices to get you started and also many apps which can control the volume and exposure for you.
I’ve previously talked about how to apply a maximum volume limit on iPhones and iPads, which you can read here.
So, this time, I am going to cover some of the third-party apps available.

Apps for Android devices

Firstly, I want to mention HearAngel.
This takes two main factors into account, time and level. The app takes these two important factors and applies the principles of noise at work health and safety rules and places them within your phone.
The app addresses the issues of previous apps by actually knowing the level that is produced by the headphones allowing you to know the actual exposure of your listening. The app can then determine how long you can listen for safely. In other words, the louder you listen the shorter you can listen.
The app will eventually allow you to select your particular headphone (make & model) allowing it to more accurately determine the amount of exposure. Interestingly, this is where most apps and third-party devices are limited, as the actual sound level produced will vary depending on the headphone used, so this is a great step in the right direction.
HearAngel is currently only available for Android devices as a free BETA version while the app is developed via the Google Play store. Get it while it’s free!
Next up is Volume Limiter (Limit & Lock), a free app for Android devices.
This app addresses the lack of ability on Android devices to set a maximum volume limit. This has always been an issue for Android devices, unlike iPhones which allow you to set a maximum level.
The app provides a quick way of setting a maximum volume limit which can then be locked. The app has many other features such as speaker output levels and will also notify the user if the level is exceeded.

Another free Android app is Volume Limiter – a simple way to set a volume limit, with a very simple interface and easy to use.

Apps for iOS Apple devices (iPhones & iPads)

iPhones & iPads already have the great advantage that they allow you to set the volume limit on the device – you can read about this here.
HearAngel will hopefully be available on iOS once fully developed, as currently there is no ability on iOS devices to determine the actual exposure from your headphone use.
Volume.lock lite is a free app for iOS devices. Another simple way of setting a maximum volume on your device, the interface is simple to use and provides some ‘lovely’ background music to determine the final level whilst setting the device. The App has many additional features for those who wish to spend an additional £2.99 for the full version. However, the app is disabled when it is closed.

Other apps are available!

There are too many apps available to mention them all, especially for Android devices. However, a word of warning – there are many apps available which are actually designed to increase and override the device maximum level output which is strongly not advised.
Also, I’ve only mentioned free apps, as some are very expensive and the cost doesn’t necessarily give you more control over a free option.
Always check the volume level on the headphones to see if it’s appropriate – this will vary depending on the type used.
And remember, just because the volume is set to a safe level, doesn’t mean it’s not loud. You may want to set the level lower, especially for younger children.

Find out more

If you have any queries or would like some more information, contact me at [email protected]

If Masking Sound Is Part Of Your Tinnitus Solution, Then Hear This

Tinnitus sufferers know all too well how difficult it can be to articulate the underlying problem of “being constantly aware of sound.”

But no matter how you characterize your tinnitus — as ringing in the ears, or as buzzing, whistling or humming in your ears – or something even less quantifiable (like being able to “hear” the silence around you), odds are at some point you’ve heard about sound masking as a possible tinnitus aid.

A Sound Solution: Comfortable, Wearable SleepPhones®

Sound masking for tinnitus involves the introduction of different types of sound into your environment. These sounds compete with, dominate or “cover” the constant underlying sounds experienced by those suffering from tinnitus.

This is where SleepPhones® headband headphones might be able to help. Available in corded or wireless versions, SleepPhones combine seriously thin audio speakers inside a stretchable, comfortable headband – and make listening to audio easier (and more focused over the ear) than you may have thought possible.

As part of a potential sound masking solution SleepPhones® merit consideration; at bedtime, while working, traveling, even while exercising – see RunPhones®. Read how some of our customers have used our products for help with tinnitus and much more.

Trying To Simply Get To Sleep, And Stay Asleep, Better.

Tinnitus suffers come from all walks of life, and they’ll be the first to tell you there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” solution to the problem.

We’ve taken an even deeper dive into tinnitus and how SleepPhones might make sense for many people who may experience the condition—view our blog post on tinnitus here, and check back from time to time as we update information about SleepPhones & Tinnitus.

Tinnitus reduced or even eliminated by device that resets brain activity

It’s just a simple pair of earbuds and some stick-on electrodes, but this device could be what millions of people worldwide have been waiting for – an effective treatment for tinnitus. Human trials have shown precisely timed sounds and weak electrical pulses delivered by the device can reduce or even eliminate that ringing in your ears.

Tinnitus, as vast numbers of people will attest, sucks. It’s a ringing or rushing sound in one’s ears when no sound is present and can be caused or exacerbated by exposure to loud noise. In a silent moment, it’ll drive you nuts with its incessant ringing. In a noisy restaurant, it’ll make it harder for you to hear a conversation. Just writing about it is making me notice my own tinnitus, and I bet a bunch of you guys reading this are cursing my name for reminding you about yours.

But there’s good news. University of Michigan researchers believe they may have worked out the first non-invasive treatment that can reduce tinnitus symptoms, and it uses a pretty fascinating mechanism that slowly trains the ringing out of your ears. The technique doesn’t concentrate on any physical damage or deep brain activity that may be associated with tinnitus, but rather, it looks to train out errant nerve activity.

“The brain, and specifically the region of the brainstem called the dorsal cochlear nucleus, is the root of tinnitus,” says Susan Shore, the U-M Medical School professor leading the research team. “When the main neurons in this region, called fusiform cells, become hyperactive and synchronize with one another, the phantom signal is transmitted into other centers where perception occurs. If we can stop these signals, we can stop tinnitus. That is what our approach attempts to do.”

Fusiform cells perform several valuable functions under normal conditions. They help us locate where sounds are coming from, and help us tune out noises and sensations related to our own head and neck movements.

But after exposure to loud noises, these cells can start behaving aberrantly, messing up their timing so they begin to synchronize their signals and fire without a noise to tune out, which results in a perception of sound where none exists. The team decided to try a bimodal auditory/somatosensory stimulation routine to attempt to reset the behaviour of these cells.

Basically, a totally non-invasive device was developed that could play a sound into the ears that roughly matches the frequency and volume of the tinnitus a patient experiences, and then apply a small electrical impulse to the head. Basically a set of headphones with some electrodes.

Patients were chosen who had the ability to alter the sound of their own tinnitus, making it louder or softer by clenching their jaws, flexing their necks or sticking out their tongues – indicating that they’d worked out ways of changing the activity of fusiform cells by themselves. The electrical pulses were directed to the part of the head each patient was using to change the tinnitus sound.

The researchers found that timing was crucial, and that this timing matched up with tests they’d previously run on guinea pigs. Twenty tinnitus patients had devices tuned to the specifics of their condition, and were trained to go away and perform a daily 30-minute session on the device each day for four weeks. A control group was given a “sham” device that only made the sound, without delivering the electrical pulses.

Patients in the sham group reported no reduction of tinnitus symptoms, but the active group’s results were very encouraging. Bimodal treatment recipients on average experienced significantly reduced scores on the 100-point TFI tinnitus quality of life survey.

Some reported up to a 12-decibel reduction of the ringing in their ears, others reported a reduction in harshness or that their tinnitus became less piercing, and two patients reported it was completely gone. Nobody’s symptoms got worse, and the effect persisted for at least a few weeks on average.

“We’re definitely encouraged by these results,” says Shore, “but we need to optimize the length of treatments, identify which subgroups of patients may benefit most, and determine if this approach works in patients who have nonsomatic forms of the condition that can’t be modulated by head and neck maneuvers.”

It’s too early to talk about commercialization, or what the treatment might cost, but it seems like we tinnitus sufferers have a genuine hope of being free from this condition sometime in the coming years.

The team’s study appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Source: University of Michigan

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