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Earbuds are More Dangerous Than Many Recognize

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Adam Steiner

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People listen to music for a variety of reasons, perhaps it’s just to decompress or to have some noise on in the background, but do you realize there is an earbud pandemic happening?

Earbuds are now a part of our everyday life; when looking around it is often easy to see numerous people wearing them, whether you are out in public, at school, or even at work. However, there are many harmful consequences to excessive earbud use.

The most obvious downfall to earbud usage is the partial deafness that can accompany them.

Nearly 20 % of teens suffer from some form of hearing loss, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The World Health Organization also found that nearly 50 % of teens are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from their personal music devices, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.

While some of this could be genetic, the research suggests that it is mostly high frequency hearing loss, which listening to earbuds can cause, according to Fisher Titus Medical Center.

It’s easy to see a connection, since an earbud is literally inserted into the year, making the noise that much closer to the eardrum and canal. Earbuds sit in the ear canal.

Now, consider that sounds up to 75 decibels are considered safe with no danger to one’s hearing, but according to the Chicago Tribune article, earbuds can have a sound (at maximum volume) of up to 110 decibels.

According to TeensHealth: “Turning the volume up and listening for long periods of time can put you in real danger of permanent hearing loss.”

Besides hearing loss, when earbuds are being used, they physically disconnect you from the outside world. This can be particularly dangerous in places where situational awareness is necessary, such as places of work and driving.

With the use of earbuds (or headphones for this matter) people can often miss sounds that would’ve alerted them to the dangers around them.

It could be anything from a person telling you to move out of the way of something, to a person blaring their car horn because a really bad accident is about to occur.

In conjunction with physical disconnectedness, earbuds can cause social isolation as well.

When wearing earbuds, a person generally puts off the idea to others that they do not wish to be disturbed. Additionally, the music separates them from society around them. As a result, people are losing valuable social interaction due to this.

According to an article from the BBC, people report that they wouldn’t ask someone directions or help if they saw they were wearing earbuds. Sales associates also complained that it was rude for someone shopping to have them in their ears as well, stating it’s like you can’t be bothered to take them out to interact with people.

Another example of this anti-social behavior has manifest in individuals keeping jobs. Some people rely so heavily on their music to isolate themselves, that they can’t stop using them–even when it’s necessary. People have been fired, even locally, because they would not stop listening to their music.

According to a Harvard Busines Review editorial, by Anne Kreamer, she found that most new employees under the age of 35 (no matter what job they performed) wore headphones half the time.

Kreamer views this as a detriment both to the employer but also the employees. Employees are less likely to make social connections to people at their place of work, which could negatively impact them in many ways.

One way could be they don’t build relationships that might help them grow or move up in their career paths, or they may not know whom to seek if they need help or guidance. These could cost someone not only their job but money.

Overall, if the younger generation doesn’t have social skills, that is a negative quality for future employers. That’s a problem.

Finally, while music is a form of entertainment, and entertainment is a way to relax or take a break from the stress of society, it can’t be a crutch. When a hobby, interest, or coping mechanism invades your ability to function, that’s an addiction. And that’s a problem.

There are quite a few things that can be done to avoid the issues that may come with earbud usage.

The first is the following of the 60/60 rule, which is that you should only listen to music at 60% volume for 60 minutes. By following this rule, you significantly lower the chance of developing hearing loss from earbud usage.

Another thing that can be tried is over the ear headphones. These greatly reduce the chance for any hearing loss to occur due to the fact that the sounds originates from outside the ear. However, the trade off here is that headphones are even more of a isolator.

The final option is to make earbud usage more of a personal thing. Only use them when you are by yourself and at very low volumes.

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Earbuds are More Dangerous Than Many Recognize