In fact the answer is of course, headphones might be very destructive to your ears.
A group in the University of Leicester recently proved that sound louder than 110 intensity cause damage to a special sort nerve cell coating, which in turn can cause tinnitus (principally a active or humming within the ears – and here is me thinking that it just made everything sound ‘a little tinny’) and temporary deafness in some cases.
Reported by medical medical news today.com, that reported with the University’s findings, the myelin sheath is a kind of outside layer that protects the nerve cells that attach the ears the brain. Any noise over 100 decibels begins to deteriorate away this outside layer, meaning the signals will ultimately stop reaching the brain. Given time, the myelin sheath will typically (but not at all times) heal itself and reform, resulting in the damage only being provisional. Still, it’s something to think about.
As for more permanent damage, well, the particulars are instead startling. Depending on TIME magazine’s Laura Blue,
“Hearing loss is more common than ever before. About 16% of American adults have an impaired ability to hear speech, and more than 30% of Americans over age 20 — an estimated 55 million people — have lost some high-frequency hearing”.
These shocking stats were put forward within the ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’ journal and initially published in ’08. Following this publication, Blue interviewed Brian Fligor, who was, at the time, the director of diagnostic audiology at Children’s Hospital Boston. In the interview, Fligor said,
“If you’re using the earbuds that come with an iPod and you turn the volume up to about 90% of maximum and you listen a total of two hours a day, five days a week, our best estimates are that the people who have more sensitive ears will develop a rather significant degree of hearing loss — on the order of 40 decibels (dB). That means the quietest sounds audible are 40 dB loud. Now, this is high-pitched hearing loss, so a person can still hear sounds and understand most speech. The impact is going to be most clearly noted when the background-noise level goes up, when you have to focus on what someone is saying. Then it can really start to impair your ability to communicate”.
Therefore, the query now results in being, what are you able to do to lower the danger?
Sam Costello of About.com suggests turning down the quantity, which is reasonably apparent, really. Though, (s)he also suggests accessing the ‘volume control’ on your iPod or device and decreasing the maximum volume setting (synch it to the computer for more such options), and also listening for shorter periods of time and switching from earbuds to ‘above the ear’ phones. Earbuds are essentially the most dangerous headset sort, apparently.
Just for the record, the average American iPod can generate about 115 decibels, which is equivalent to attending a reasonably loud rock concert (although not only a Motorhead gig obviously – now that is a group which just about ensures total deafness for at least a couple of days afterwards, trust me).
However, the good news is that if you’re within the EU, your iPod is limited to 100db maximum output by law. Though you’re still in danger if you switch the volume all the way up and hear all of it day long, that hazard is considerably fewer on our side of the pond.