Headphones, ear buds a hazard for loss of hearing

Humber student Sara Fiore thinks people need to cut down the amount of time they’re listening to music only if they have the volume up loud. Humber student Sara Fiore thinks people need to cut down the amount of time they’re listening to music only if they have the volume up loud.

Christine Tippett

Life Reporter

It’s all too common to walk through the hallways at Humber and hear music blaring from other students’ headphones.

There’s hazard in those headphones and more to be done to prevent hearing loss than turning down the music, according to the World Health Organization.

WHO recently published a report that recommends people should not only listen to music at a quieter volume, but also listen to music for no more than one hour a day to protect their hearing.

Second year 3D Animation student Tyler Yamamoto listens to an average of eight hours of music a day but tries not to listen to his music too loudly.

“It’s not realistic to listen to music an hour a day,” Yamamoto said. “It’s a way to avoid distraction from other stuff.”

WHO estimates 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of developing hearing loss due to unsafe use of personal audio devices and exposure to damaging levels of sound in noisy entertainment venues.

“It’s not to the point where hearing aids are being recommended but what’s going to happen in their adolescents is that they’re going to need hearing aids at an earlier age,” said Tracy Saunders, an audiologist at Hearing Solutions, an Ontario retail and clinic chain.

People aged 12 to 35 years in middle and high-income countries, nearly 50 per cent listen to unsafe levels of sound through personal audio devices such as iPods and MP3 players, according to WHO.

“What you can do is make sure it’s at a volume where if someone was speaking to you from a metre away that you would have no trouble hearing them,” Saunders said.

The WHO report also said noise-cancelling headphones allow music to be heard more clearly at a lower volume.

Saunders agrees noise-cancelling headphones may reduce the chance of hearing loss, but that doesn’t mean someone should rush out to buy a pair of $150 headphones and assume they’re protecting their hearing.

“It’s the individual’s choice of how loud they’re going to be listening to music. That’s what ultimately would cause noise induced hearing loss,” said Saunders.

Saunders said she thinks young adults are conscious of the consequences of listening to music too loudly but don’t really care about it. The tricky part is making them care about their future selves, she said.

“It’s not going to impact them in that moment, it’s going to impact them 40 years down the road,” Saunders said.

Sara Fiore, a first-year Early Childhood Education student, listens to music fairly loudly but usually only puts one ear bud in. She said she wants to be aware of her surroundings but she’s also scared of losing her hearing.

Fiore doesn’t accept WHO’s recommendation to limit the amount of time spent listening to music, however.

“If you’re listening to it several hours a day loudly, then you should cut down,” said Fiore.

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