Using earbuds could have detrimental consequences for millennials

Overexposure to loud sounds proves to be more damaging than we thought

We hike up the volume in our earbuds, and blast bangers in our cars. The damage of loud music has become apparent and we need to acknowledge it. 

Ignoring the issue could create serious consequences — it is time to face the music. The way millennials listen to their favorite tunes is damaging to their health.

Just this year, the World Health Organization reported 1.1 billion young people are at risk of suffering hearing loss at an earlier age due to the overexposure to loud sounds from mobile devices.

Music is becoming more mobile, and as a result the use of headphones and earbuds has spiked.

“The National Health Nutrition Examination Survey provides all the statistics on hearing loss as a function of age … that document ... and the prevalence of hearing in various populations ... show an increase of hearing loss over time,”  William Yost, research professor of speech and hearing science at ASU, said.

We see classmates around us listening to music in between almost every activity. It is sort of ingrained in our routines.

“Of course, these kinds of measurements that are done ... don’t necessarily differentiate between the causes of the hearing loss," Yost said. "Exposure to music through earbuds or headphone, or going to concerts or nightclubs leads to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) … but other studies clearly show that the most common form of hearing loss is exposure to loud sounds.” 

When we are alone, we like to crank up the music or the podcast we are listening to in hopes of filling the silence, but what we fail to think about in the moment is how damaging this could be.

We need to be intentional about our choices now, and acknowledge that these practices are unhealthy and will negatively impact our health in the future.

As millennials, it can be difficult to consider what our lives will be like as we grow old. However, we need to be making choices that will benefit our health and quality of life in the long term. If we choose safe listening practices, we can effectively avoid the frustration and costs of damaged hearing.

“Everyone loses their hearing as they get old … by having another variable besides age, like exposure to loud sounds presented over headphones, or earbuds, or concerts – it’s just going to make that old age hearing more severe and happen at an earlier age,” Yost said. 

It is important to monitor the conditions in which we listen to music with earbuds. Educating ourselves on such a rapidly rising issue is one of the obligatory steps in learning why and how to avoid these consequences. 

“Try to make people aware, millennials in this case, that overexposure to sounds is not good for your hearing ... by trying to educate people that that is the reality, hopefully they will stop turning the music so loud,” Yost said. “No one is going to legislate a cut off, you can’t enforce it … people have to monitor themselves.”

Making sure the sound is not too loud and taking breaks between listening is enough to help prolong the lasting and damaging effects it will have. 

The use of earbuds is okay, so long as it is done properly. As a generation that has all the tools to avoid such harm, it is our responsibility to take care of our long-term health. 

Bringing awareness to this overlooked topic will only be to our advantage in the long run.

If we acknowledge the issue and become intentional about changing these damaging habits, we are likely to experience a much more positive quality of life. Your future self will thank you.


Reach the columnist at tkallye@asu.edu or follow on Twitter @trwscuit.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the  author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its  editors. 

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