Headphone use is becoming a more prevalent cause of noise-induced hearing loss, especially with the younger generations.

People often wear headphones while working, traveling, and making phone calls. In doing so, they are essentially walking around with two loudspeakers directly in each ear for many hours every day.

The most consequential problem we face with headphone use is that there is no regulation on how loudly people listen to them and, generally, people listen to unsafe levels.

An example of the impact this issue is having was evident during a recent hearing assessment. A concerned parent brought her 12-year-old in for a hearing exam, at which time it was discovered that the child had what we call a “noise notch,” meaning there was hearing loss at 3000 and 4000 Hertz.

Noise exposure has a very characteristic shape to it on the audiogram, primarily affecting 3000 and 4000 Hertz at initial exposure and gradually including neighboring frequencies as the damage progresses.  It was alarming to see how much impact constant headphone use was having on this young patient.

Headphones typically have a maximum volume that can damage your ears, even when used for a short period of time.  My recommendation for headphone use is not to exceed 70% of the maximum volume capability and minimize the length of time they are used.  If someone else can hear your headphones while they are in your ears, they are too loud!

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One of the biggest problems with noise exposure is that it is cumulative over a lifetime.  Noise-induced hearing loss does not simply go away when the noise is removed.  

When I ask patients if they have a history of hearing loss, nearly all of them say that they were exposed to loud noise in their younger years.  Unfortunately, they do not realize our hearing does not repair itself over time.

Even one instance of loud noise exposure, like a gunshot, can cause permanent hearing loss.

If you are concerned about your or a loved one’s hearing, the first step is to visit one of our physicians or audiologists. We will conduct a comprehensive hearing assessment and help you understand how to protect your hearing best going forward.

If you are ready to schedule a hearing assessment with our experts at North Houston Hearing Solutions, please call 281-444-9800.

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Dr Kathryn Crane

Dr. Kathryn Crane, CCC/A, CH-AP, Doctor of Audiology, joined North Houston Hearing Solutions in February 2021. Dr. Crane graduated with a Bachelors in History and a Bachelors in Communication Sciences and Disorders from The University of Texas at Austin and received her Doctorate of Audiology in 2014 from Louisiana State University-Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. Crane joins North Houston Hearing Solutions after many years at a large ENT practice in the Memorial area of Houston. She has developed significant experience and skills in comprehensive diagnostic audiometry and in the fitting of hearing devices. Though not a native Houstonian, Dr. Crane is a native Texan having grown up in Dallas, Bryan, and Austin. She has lived in Houston since 2013 and considers Houston home.