Many speakers can envy the sound quality of branded headphones. Their increased popularity is also due to ergonomics and a variety of sizes to choose a suitable device. Despite the ease of use, the improper use of these devices can adversely affect the human body.
That’s what a lot of research says. However, according to scientists, many are fiction, misinterpretations of the media, and simply misinformation. Therefore, it is essential to distinguish between fictional and real facts about the impact of headphones on human health.
The Harm of Headphones: Truth or Fiction
The harm of headphones on the human body is often associated with statistics: about 10% of the world’s population suffers from hearing impairment. The World Health Organization attributes this to the frequent listening of loud music coming from sound equipment. This affects not only the auditory and nervous systems of the person but also the health of the body as a whole.
Recent studies among adolescents and young adults ages 16 to 25 have shown earphone dependence and human health. They show that listening to loud music, regardless of the type of device, negatively affects the threshold of audibility.
Studies of otolaryngologists show that the sound effects of more than 100 dB damage the hair cells of the basilar membrane. This is fraught with the development of complete or partial deafness and other types of damage to the human auditory system. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sound or a melody.
This suggests that the influence of headphones on a person’s hearing is due to the volume of the music. Much depends on the pressure of outgoing sound waves. This has also been proven in studies conducted by otolaryngologists. Several speculations accompany the influence of the sound devices described on the human body:
- Leads to partial or total hearing loss;
- proof to scientists that intra-channel and inserted types of devices are harmful to humans;
- The use of headphones for the inner ear canal does not comply with the rules of hygiene (this leads to the formation of fungus and other lesions dangerous to the auditory passage);
- Regular listening to sound content leads to a decrease in mental capacity;
- if you listen to music with headphones every day, you have an increased risk of hearing loss or impairment.
All these are fictions that need to be dispelled. Research related to the identified mythical facts about hearing loss due to such sound equipment was conducted by Robert Novak, a well-known American researcher. The scientist determined that hearing lesions at the cellular level are typical for people over the age of 35-40 years.
This is also the case for some young people who coincidentally use headphones. Reporters have fanned out from this information a news sensation that these products lead to the deafness of young people. In fact, the harm is not caused by these products, but by loud music or sounds, the volume of more than 90-100 dB. For comparison, the sound of a jet is 130 dB.
The author of the study, which proved the harm of interchannel and inserted headphones, is Dr. Brian Flygaard (Harvard Medical School). A 2004 report by the scientific paper Ear and Hearing found that the sound pressure that harms a person’s hearing depends on the type of headphones. The experiment involved people of different ages, occupations, and the size of the ear and canal. This was done in favor of the objectivity of the experiments.
The scientist in his research project revealed an increase in sound pressure when using interchannel and insert headphones. The interpretation of this study is not quite correct. The truth is that when using these types of devices, a person hears ambient sounds, which makes it increase the volume level.
The fact of the risk of developing fungus when using headphones is also speculation. Infectious lesions of the auditory channel are caused by factors such as the presence of bacteria, fungal deposits, harmful microorganisms, the entrance gate for infection (trauma, bruise), deterioration of circulation, and reduced immunity.
Headphones affect a person’s hearing in this system only indirectly, as microbes can be on any surface, not just on the earbuds. The effect on the psyche is not the headphones themselves as sound equipment but sounds that can come from the environment. Music in style can express a person’s mental state.
Studies of the dependence of headphones and human hearing levels are associated with experiments so much sound pressure affects a person’s auditory system. They showed that the acceptable level of sound for a person is between 45 and 60 dB. Drying sound content over 70-90 dB has a detrimental effect on the hearing and the human psyche—the duration of such auditions – more than 4 hours a day.
Many of the facts are presented in the study of how headphones affect a person’s hearing, where experiments were conducted with listening to music in headphones by young people about 17 years of age. The dependence of sound volume and audibility level in people after a certain period of time was revealed. As a result, the pressure of sound waves on the human auditory system was confirmed.
How fast headphones affect hearing
Irreversible changes in hearing organs occur in humans after 30 years. There is a degradation of certain elements of the system, as well as a decrease in insensitivity. However, hearing loss is observed in some people under this age. The causes of these disorders are congenital diseases and non-compliance with the rules of safe use of sound equipment.
If you follow the rules of safe use, headphones are harmless to human health. It is enough not to go beyond the allowable values of sound pressure (45-60 dB), trying to drown out external noises. If necessary, it is enough to buy devices with a noise-canceling system. You also need to follow the following recommendations:
- refrain from using headphones in noisy places (metro, train stations, closed squares, markets);
- Keep the volume level within 80%-90% of the par value;
- refrain from listening to music with headphones for more than 4 hours a day;
- don’t listen to music with headphones while you sleep.
A useful publication about the dangers of sound is presented on this link the harm of loud music in headphones. The studies described here show that the harm of the sound devices described on the human body lies in the misuse of these devices and listening to music more than 100 dB.
Alexander Yevtushenko published important research in the journal Stereo and Video 1997. It stated that fans of loud music, increasing sound pressure by 10-25 dB from the safe range, there was a short-term decrease inaudibility by about 5-10 dB. If you listen to music with an excess of the acceptable pressure range, then after 3-5 years, the probability of 1st-degree deafness increases. This is the reason for the harm of loud music in headphones.
What headphone designs are dangerous for hearing
It should be noted that the rating of the dangers of types of headphones comes not because of their shortcomings from the point of view of physics, but from the fact that users often twist on the sound, which adversely affects their health. The descending order lists the types of products presented that indirectly negatively affect human health:
There is still a closed type of headphones (overhead, in which the earbuds have soft linings that extend beyond the ear). The peculiarity of the plugs is that they are inserted into the ear canal. The positive design characteristic is the invisibility and lightness of the device. These products can easily be worn under a hat covering the ears. They are equipped with silicone seals that block the penetration of external noise, but this design gives the greatest strain on the hearing and nervous system of the person.
“Insouciatives” are inserted into the ear without penetrating the ear canal. They also, like earplugs, broadcast the sound directly to the auditory system but act softer. They are also equipped with silicone earbuds and a special ear mount.
The design of the overhead models consists of 2 speakers connected by a flexible wrap made of metal or plastic. The hoop holds the headphones on the person’s head, and the speakers are superimposed on the ears. The negative point of this design is weak noise cancellation.
Also, the sound coming from the speakers collides first with the ear and then goes into the ear canal. It also hurts sound quality but makes such headphones safe to use. You can find out about the products described briefly in Wikipedia.
How to minimize the harm from using headphones
In addition to complying with the rules of security of listening to sound content, a person needs to choose the right headphones. Manufacturers offer a sufficient number of models of these devices, which allows you to pick up the device for different head sizes, structures, and ear sizes. In this case, the characteristics of the devices are considered from the point of view of safety. Important technical indicators of these devices are:
- Frequency range
- Peak power
- The level of distortion
- physical characteristics (weight, size).
Frequency range (spectrum) shows in what range of frequencies the sound is played in the speakers. The higher this figure, the better and cleaner the sound is. Here it would help if you relied on the physical ability of the human ear to hear sounds in the range of 15-16 and 18,000-20,000 Hz. The peak sensitivity (volume) of headphones is more than 100 dB. However, listening to music with such values is strongly discouraged. 85% or less of the face is safe for humans. This applies to both the child and the adult.
An acceptable resistance level depends on the purpose of using sound devices. For the use of these devices in smartphones, players, and similar mobile devices, this figure varies from 16 to 50 Om. The more resistance the equipment, the more signal amplifier will be needed at the exit of the losing product. For example, if you connect studio-level devices 250 Om to your smartphone, they will sound quiet. Similarly, it would help if you acted with the choice of power devices.
The level of sound distortion is measured as a percentage—the lower this indicator, the better the sound quality. The size and weight of these devices are also important for human health. If devices are used as computer headsets, the allowable weight ranges from 150 to 300 g. This option corresponds to values of 5-30 g for vacuum types of devices for overhead models of sound devices – from 40 to 100 g.
Headphones need to be selected for this purpose. If a person is unpretentious to the quality of sound, noise cancellation, and other technical characteristics, then he will be suitable plugs or droplets. They approach a smartphone, a player, and other miniature mobile gadgets. Wireless models of such devices are suitable for listening to music.
Sportspeople are suited to overhead models of sound equipment. They sit steadily on their heads while running and exercising. They also drown out the ambient noise of the gym or the street. This positively affects the human psyche and his auditory perception.
Open full-size headphones are suitable for computer activity and computer games. They help a person to immerse himself in activities and not to be distracted by external stimuli. Closing full-size devices are advisable to choose for professional work with sound. Following the recommendations presented, you can provide yourself with the convenience of consumption of sound content and protect your hearing and health from harmful factors. This applies to people of all ages.
Studies have shown that headphones cannot be directly affected by human health. This applies to all types of these devices, provided the correct size selection under the ear or ear canal of the person. Hearing loss and even mental and human impairment were observed only if there were no safety rules when listening to sound.
Violations of the human auditory system begin when listening to loud music – more than 100 dB. This sound volume level is used in the instruments described to amplify the sound in a noisy place. These include subways, assembly halls, railway stations, corridors of universities, and other educational institutions. Therefore, it seems that headphones harm the hearing of a person.