The doctor is in: Earphone overuse – How do earphones impact your hearing and brain | The Financial Express

The doctor is in: Earphone overuse – How do earphones impact your hearing and brain

The stronger the vibrations and the faster the hairs move, the louder the noise. Long-term, continuous exposure to loud music causes hair cells to lose sensitivity to sound vibration.

The doctor is in: Earphone overuse – How do earphones impact your hearing and brain
As a general rule, you should only listen to MP3 players at levels up to 60% of maximum volume for a total of 60 minutes per day.

By Dr Suresh Singh Naruka

How do earphones impact hearing?
Technology has undoubtedly made our lives easier and more convenient in a variety of ways, but it has also led to an increase in the number of health problems associated with excessive and irresponsible use. Sound enters the inner ear via the eardrum and the hearing bones. The vibration then travels to the cochlea, which is filled with fluid and has numerous small ‘hairs’. When vibrations reach the cochlea, the fluid vibrates, causing the hairs to move. The stronger the vibrations and the faster the hairs move, the louder the noise. Long-term, continuous exposure to loud music causes hair cells to lose sensitivity to sound vibration. Loud music can also cause hair cells to bend or fold over, resulting in temporary hearing loss. When a sound is too loud and played for an extended period of time, the hearing cells in the ear can be damaged. Furthermore, the earphones may push the wax in the ear deeper into the ear canal, which can lead to infections.

Children especially always have earphones these days. How much use is advisable per day?
Today, one in every five teenagers has some form of hearing loss, which is about 30% higher than it was 20 years ago. Many experts believe the increase is partly due to the increased use of headphones. When investigating headphones and hearing loss, the duration of noise exposure is also an important factor. As a general rule, you should only listen to MP3 players at levels up to 60% of maximum volume for a total of 60 minutes per day.

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What audio range is optimal?
The generally accepted audio frequency range is 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, though most people can hear less than this entire range, and the range tends to contract on both ends as they get older. The relationship between music and audio frequency is that every octave up doubles the frequency.

Is there long-term damage due to earphones for hearing?
Earphones are now an unavoidable part of most people’s lives, but blasting music into one’s ears has consequences. If earphones are worn for an extended period of time at a high volume, they can cause partial to complete hearing loss, also known as noise-induced hearing loss. The damage from earphones can be permanent because the sound causes the hair cells in the cochlea to bend severely.

Do earphones cause any other effects— on the brain for example?
Long-term use of earphones, as well as using ill-fitting earphones, can cause pain that can often extend to the inner ear, causing soreness in the vicinity of the ear, from the jaws to the top of the head. In the long run, the electromagnetic waves produced by headphones cause problems for the brain. High decibel levels of noise remove the insulation from nerve fibers that carry signals from the ear to the brain. Ear infections can have a negative impact on the brain.

Dr Suresh Singh Naruka is consultant, ENT & head/neck surgery, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi

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First published on: 27-11-2022 at 02:15 IST