Are On-Ear Headphones Bad For You?

Are On-Ear Headphones Bad For You?

In this modern age, you cannot get very far without your very own set of headphones. Even as things continue to progress, and in-ear headphones rise in popularity, there is still concern over how much of an effect on-ear headphones can have on your hearing. So, are on-ear headphones bad for you?

Like it or not, long-time exposure to higher volumes can have a detrimental effect on the sensitive structures that we have in our ears, which can eventually lead to hearing loss. While these effects are not always noticeable at first, the damage can, at times, be irreversible, even when the noise-induced hearing issue is caused by a singular incident. 

Hearing loss due to noise can occur at any age, despite the assumption that this is an issue that solely affects older generations, and nearly fifty percent of young adults and even teenagers are regularly exposed to potentially damaging noise levels due to various electronic devices (the main sources being smartphones and general personal audio devices). Most of this potential damage, however, is almost entirely preventable with the taking of certain measures which will be explained a little further on. 

In-Ear Versus On-Ear

In-Ear Versus On-Ear
Source: Unsplash

The type of headphones that you choose to invest in has a lot of bearing when considering your potential exposure to noise-induced hearing loss, and while in-ear headphones are growing more and more popular, they are certainly not the safer choice. 

In-ear headphones project noise directly into the ear canal, and with no forms of protection between your ears and this noise, you are exponentially increasing the risk of sustaining damage to your ears. Not only this, but in-ear headphones can also push the earwax further into your ears, which can cause blockages. These blockages do not seem like a substantial threat, but they have the potential to temporarily impair parts of your hearing, making you raise the volume of your device to compensate. 

The quality of your in-ear headphones can also have an impact on the damage inflicted by noise. While no one wants to pay more for a product than they have to, some cheaper pairs of in-ear headphones might have poorer sound quality. Poor sound quality does not mean that you are not being exposed to high decibels of noise though, and if you turn the volume of your device up to compensate, you could be exposing your ears to unsafe levels of noise.

Overall, on-ear headphones are typically the safest bet. Not only do on-ear headphones save you from the direct funneling effect of their in-ear counterpart, but they are typically more comfortable as well. These headphones can also be found in the noise-canceling variety, which can further save you from needing to increase your volume to dangerous levels. 

Volume and Duration

Even with the use of on-ear headphones over in-ear, you still run the risk of exposing yourself to noise-induced hearing loss, which is why learning more about the effect of the volume and time of exposure can be all the more helpful. 

It has been estimated that listening to sounds that are above 85 decibels for a duration of over eight hours could lead to hearing loss. While 85 decibels might sound high, the average smartphone has the capacity to produce up to 120 dB, sometimes more, resulting in immediate hearing impairment. For reference, the normal conversation is around 60 dB, so 120 dB would be around the equivalent of someone yelling directly in your ear, which, for obvious reasons, would be unpleasant and leave you with a terrible earache (and damage to your hearing). 

Tips to Prevent Hearing Loss

Tips To Prevent Hearing Loss
Source: Unsplash

Turning Down the Volume

This is the easiest way that you could potentially save your hearing, and it is literally as simple as a click of a button! Keeping the volume down, not just on your phone, but on your television and other devices as well. 

Set Volume Limit

Not every device has this function, but it can be found in most iPhone models, and it is as simple as adjusting the music section of your settings and setting a maximum volume limit. If your device does not noticeably have this function, double-check with its user manual to confirm (it could save you a lot of earache in the end). 

Use On-Ear Headphones Over In-Ear

As discussed earlier, there are significant benefits to avoiding in-ear headphones, and simply picking the on-ear over the in-ear option increases the distance between the sound and your eardrum. Regardless of how small this distance may seem, it could nevertheless be crucial in the long-term quality of your hearing.  

Use Noise-Cancelling Headphones

If you are one of the many people that use headphones to drown out sound, simply investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones is an easy step you can take in avoiding any noise-induced damage to your ears. If listening to music and media is still your main objective, however, using noise-canceling headphones can still keep you from having to turn your volume up louder to combat external noise. 

Take Listening Breaks

Finally, the simplest and most inexpensive step you could take in preserving your hearing would be to simply take breaks from your headphones. Taking a ten-minute break every hour is an easy fix to what could become a permanent problem, and when in doubt, you can always follow the 60/60 rule, which is to not go above 60% of the maximum volume and taking a break after every 60 minutes. 


Source: Unsplash

While on-ear headphones are not necessarily good for your ears, when taking the proper precautions, you can certainly, and easily, avoid doing any serious damage in the long run. Making sure you have the best on-ear wireless headphones, and not settling for poor quality is an important step, just as much as volume control and taking the occasional breaks, and with those steps in mind, on-ear headphones are relatively harmless. 

Written by Katherine Schultz

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