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Can Headphones Cause Hearing Loss?

What are the consequences for our hearing when we put miniature speakers into our ears? Widespread as their use has become, earbuds and headphones can cause hearing loss. These devices, however, are not inherently dangerous. As long as you’re careful, you can safely enjoy listening to music and other media on the go.


There are two factors to keep in mind when using your earbuds or headphones: volume and listening time. The easiest way to damage your hearing with earbuds or headphones is by listening at high volumes. However, even listening at a moderate volume over a long period of time can result in hearing damage. For instance, 85 dB is not an unusual volume level for people using headphones, but if you listen at this volume for more than 8 hours, you run the risk of serious hearing damage. Here’s how long it takes to be at risk for permanent hearing loss when listening through headphones at higher decibel levels:

  • 88 dB, 4 hours
  • 91 dB, 2 hours
  • 94 dB, 1 hour
  • 97 dB, 30 minutes
  • 100 dB, 15 minutes


Keep in mind that these are daily doses that include all noise exposure that you can have during the day. They all add up!

As a point of reference, the output of personal audio devices may range from 75 dB to as high as 136 dB. The maximum output levels vary depending upon regulations and legislation in different countries. Typically, users of personal audio devices choose to set the volume between 75 and 105 dB!

Preventing Hearing Loss Caused by Headphones
The basic formula for protecting your hearing is simple enough: keep the volume at a reasonable level and limit your listening time. Here are a few other ways to reduce the risk of hearing loss:

  • Use over-the-ear headphones: audiologists recommend using over-the-ear headphones instead of earbuds, as they leave more distance between your eardrums and the speakers.
  • Use noise-cancelling headphones: even better, use noise-cancelling headphones. When we listen to media through headphones at a high volume, we often do so to drown out external sounds. By blocking out these other sounds, noise-cancelling headphones allow you to listen at a lower volume.
  • Use the noise-limiting settings on your device: most smartphones have limiters that let you set the maximum safe volume. This function can be found in the settings menu for iPhones and Android phones. Keep in mind, however, that this only affects the phone’s own software and won’t work on third-party apps like Spotify.


Even if you have smart listening habits, you should make sure to get your hearing tested regularly by an audiologist. Detecting hearing loss early on is essential for its effective treatment. For hearing solutions in New Brunswick, visit one of Argus Audiology’s five locations across the province. Backed by education and experience, our team of professionals provides you with superior and personalized services. For a consultation with an audiologist or hearing professional, contact us today!