August 21, 2018

Can You Hear Me Now? Earphones and Hearing Loss


By Hellen Nanzia

Don’t you just hate it when you are sitting next to someone and they have their earphone at 150? Then you want to talk to them and they have to keep taking their earphones off, annoying right? Well, it isn’t as annoying as having to constantly unplug the devices from your ears to hear what someone wants to say (which usually isn’t very important anyway). We live in a world where if I have my earphones on it means ‘I don’t want to talk to anyone, get off my down time!’ Music to us is what yoga is to yoga fanatics. It helps up relax, unwind. It keeps us going.

Earphones allow one to listen to their own…whatever…without bothering the people around them. If you have ever been in a Kenyan matatu then you have probably also used earphones to keep the world from bothering you. Many of us would happily pop them on and live merrily ever after. But as tempting as that may sound science has proved beyond reasonable doubt that loud earphones could damage you hearing in just one hour and 15 minutes. The World Health Organization (2002), recommended 85 decibels as the maximum safe volume that the human ear could withstand for five minutes a day. Most MP3 players we use today can produce sounds up to 120 decibels, equivalent to the sound levels at a rock concert.

According to research by the American Osteopathic Association, 1 in 5 teens has some form of hearing loss – a rate about 30% higher than it was in the 80s and 90s – which experts believe is due, in part, to the increased use of earphones. Kenya is not far off behind, with the introduction of new technology and mobile phones, more than half of the populations (30.5 million) own a cell phone device, a large number of which come with a music player or radio station receiver and earphones as a standard accessory.

A WHO (2012) research estimates that prevalence of disabling hearing loss in children and adults is greatest in South Asia, Asia Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa. The risk is even greater in Africa because it is a newly tapped industry and most people don’t know the rules of the game, so to say. With cheap brands that produce substandard products, you could be exposing yourself to unlikely dangers of hearing loss at a very early age.

As a rule, it is recommended that you should only use your MP3 devices at levels up to 60% of maximum volume for a total of 60 minutes a day (60/60 rule). The louder the volume, the shorter your duration should be. At maximum volume, you should listen for only about five minutes a day or in conservative math just one song or two.

One way to reduce the risk is by using older style larger headphones that rest over the ear opening instead of earphones that are placed directly into the ear canal. Noise cancelling earphones are also recommended because then you don’t have to turn your volume all the way up on your MP3 device to enjoy the music.

Hearing loss is irreversible! In the next10 years, you could be as deaf as post, but at least you’ll have the memories of music.

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