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by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
In this article from the Cleveland Clinic, Sandra Sandridge, PhD, Director of Clinical Services in Audiology, offers advice on protecting hearing when using ear buds or headphones to listen to music.
She first notes that hearing loss is 100% preventable, and this might be the only statement that is accurate. Unfortunately, the advice she gives to prevent noise-induced hearing damage is not.
This piece is like an article fifty years ago advising smokers on how to smoke safely. One can’t! There is no such thing as a safe cigarette, and there is no such thing as safe headphone or ear bud use.
Dr. Sandridge notes that many headphones and ear buds can be too loud–most personal music players put out 100-110 decibel sound and some player-headphone combinations can reach 120 to 130 dB–but she implies that 85 decibels is the sound level at which auditory damage begins.
Even in children age 9-11, who haven’t been using headphones very long, auditory damage is already present.
The only way to prevent auditory damage is not to use ear buds or headphones. Or to use Dr. Sandridge’s language:
The only way to rock out with ear buds or headphones without damaging your hearing is not to rock out with them!
Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.