There are many individuals who use earphones as constant companions while studying, travelling, sweating it out in gym or simply to avoid conversations as music makes almost everything bearable. Earphones are now an inescapable part for most people but blasting music in one’s ears does have its consequences. Earphones can damage the ears if they are used for a long period of time at a high volume, and can result in partial to complete hearing loss, also known as noise-induced hearing loss. The damage can be permanent as the sound from earphones cause the hair cells in the cochlea to bend severely.
According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the use of earphones has led to a major increase in the prevalence of hearing loss in adolescents and young adults.
When sound waves reach the ear, there are vibrations in the eardrum which ate transmitted to the inner ear through several small bones, to reach the cochlea. The cochlea is a fluid-filled chamber in an ear that contains thousands of small hairs. When sound vibrations reach the cochlea, the fluid inside it vibrates and cause the hairs to move. If the volume is too loud, it will have stronger vibrations and cause the hair cells to move more. This results in "temporary hearing loss".
The hair cells take time to recover from extreme vibrations caused by loud noise. There are also some cases, where the cells never recover or they are too damaged to function normally any longer. This leads to "lasting hearing loss". This type of noise-induced hearing damage is almost impossible to recover from.
Nowadays, there are earphones that deliver excellent audio experience, but with this greatness comes health risks. Earphones are built so that the user can insert them in the ear canal, which blocks the air passage and can result in higher ear infection risk.
Also, when one’s earphones become public property, used by too many people, it has a high chance of carrying an ear infection. The bacteria from ears of different people effortlessly travels through these earphones.
Earphones these days produce electromagnetic waves that can be dangerous for the brain. Although, there is no medical evidence that prove this theory, it is common to find brain related problems in daily users of Bluetooth and earphones.
Listening to music on the earphone should be done at a maximum of 70-80 decibels, otherwise it can lead to hearing impairment. Always try and remove the earphones every 30 minutes. You can even set reminders on your smartphone if you are in the habit of using earphones. Also, it is preferable to use headphones over earphones as the latter is closer to the eardrum and tends to do bigger damage when used for a long period of time.
You should always be on the lookout for signs of hearing loss. Some symptoms include: buzzing or ringing in the ears, difficulty in hearing at low volume and a need to keep the volume up.
If earphone users, who listen to music at high decibels, are seen to complain of sharp pain in certain areas in their ears, try to decrease the frequency of usage and consult an ENT specialist immediately.