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Headphones: A Potential Threat to the Blessing of Hearing

Submitted by on September 19, 2013 – 4:00 PM

120113085821-headphone-danger-guy-walking-street-story-topIn this world of worries, our daily life is filled with electronic pianos, ring tones, the disembodied voice giving you your bank balance over the telephone. Audio devices which include iPods, MP3 players, headphones, ear buds etc have been very popular among the 21st century youth. People use these devices for the sake of entertainment, listening to  music, relaxing, concentrating on their work and for many other purposes. Nowadays students, employees, young adults carry these devices along with them as they render it easy for them  to take  music, audio books and telephone calls on the go so that they can enjoy music during work as well as in their spare time.


Hence listening has become a source of pleasure for many individuals. As Albert Einstein truly said, “Technology has exceeded our humanity and it is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand and slaps you in the back with the other.”


The developer of headphones has designed them to be held in place close to the user’s ear. Their aim in the development of headphones was to help airline pilots cancel the low frequency rumble of jet engines as the human ear can only persist about 50dB. Getting in tune with the music close the ear is dangerous as it seals the canals. Volume levels are significantly louder in sealed ear canals but our defense mechanisms makes the volume sound softer, so we turn up the volume even more. That puts an even bigger strain on the eardrum and when this continues for more than an hour the listener starts feeling fatigue and concentration is also disturbed, as attention requires mental effort and we get mentally tired.


Secondly, research conducted at the University of Leicester in August 2012 has shown the following study: “Ear phones or headphones and other music players can reach noise level similar to those jet engines. Noises louder than 110 decibels are known to cause hearing problems such as temporary deafness and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).” For the first time Dr.MartinHamann of Department of cell physiology and pharmacology led the study,“Nerve cells that carry electrical signals from the ears to the brain have a coating called myelin sheet, which develop as electrical signals travel along the cell. Exposure to loud noises that is 110 decibels can strip the cell of the coating,disrupting the electrical signal.


This means nerves can no longer efficiently transmit information from the ear to the brain. This leads to partial deafness.” Continuing his ongoing research, he further added, “Dorsal cochlear nucleus, is a part of the brain, a relay that carries signals from nerve cells in the ear to the part of the brain that decodes and makes the sense of sound. Damage to the cells in this area causes tinnitus – the sensation of ‘Phantom sounds’ such as buzzing or ringing.”


A number of cross sectional surveys and researches have been conducted in different universities which revealed lower scores on test concentration, significant reduction in reading test score which reduce the ability to focus on studies, distraction in verbal communication, understanding speech, permanent hearing loss, development of tumors (damage hair cells of the inner ear and pressure on cranial nerves), heart attack (with increased level of noise), external ear canal fungal or bacterial infection (prolonged use can increase the temperature and humidity, which creates a potential for skin abrasion and provides a vehicle for introduction of an organism).


Hence a number of adolescents and young adults are victims to the use of ear buds and headphones. According to the Journal of American Medical Association, hearing loss in teens is “30% higher than it was in the ’80s and ’90s”. About 1 in 5 teens have suffered some degree of hearing loss due to loud exposures of music through headphones. That would add up to at least 6.5 million teens that have hearing loss. In their data it is also stated that hearing loss is more common “among boys than girls” and “teens from poor families are more likely to have hearing loss.”


Headphones have become a staple in everyone’s lives, but everyone seems to be ignoring the consequences. Listening to music while you are walking down the street, enjoying a long romantic drive or jogging can sure make your experience more pleasant. On the other hand however ,it could be deadly because you are less aware of what is going on around you, making it potential dangerous. A number of researches have been conducted which aim at walk smart, arrive alive. These studies have shown that in the last six years serious accidents, crashes, injuries and deaths have tripled among pedestrians and travelers and eye witnesses have reported several times that the victim was wearing headphones and ear buds.


Distraction caused by the use of electronic devices is known as “Inattentional Blindness (IB)” (a condition in which an individual’s attention is diverted, not ‘seeing’ what is right in front and around due to distracting influence and undetected visual scene). Considering the above mentioned factors a number of governments including France have imposed a limit on all music players sold in the country capable of producing more than 100dB of hearing loss (the threshold of hearing damage). We human being in this stressed world, need a way to relax and music plays an important role in this regard. For a safer use, audiologists and experts have suggested a “60 percent / 60 minute rule.”

Means try not to use these devices for more than an hour a day and keep it under 60 percent of maximum volume. That puts below 85 decibels, protecting from permanent hearing damage. It is a real fact that health is not valued till sickness comes. Entertainment and enjoyment of several hours can throw the teenagers in  big danger.

Think once again, for yourself, think for your life, your existence and importance, otherwise you would end up in silence. Turn the page and have a glance on the other side of hidden dangers of headphones. Pay attention to your health; and if you have it, praise God and value it next to conscience; for health is a blessing that money can’t buy.

About the Author: Hunaina Hadi is a second year student of Bachelors of Science in Nursing at Aga Khan University, Pakistan. Her areas of interests are Research and Public Health Management and will try her best to fulfill her goal in future. She can be reached at [email protected]

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