Shelby Russom
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO, Ark. — Since their creation, headphones continue to grow in popularity. But these personal listening devices have their pros and cons.

   Invented in the early 1800s, headphones allow users to listen to their choice of audio privately. This allows those who love to listen to music in their cars and on personal radios to finally bike, walk and so much more while never having to put away their tunes. Timothy Hsu, of Phys.Org, headphones work through the turning of electrical audio signals into cycles of high and low pressures that the ear interprets as sound. This constant, close-contact vibration can be damaging if music is listened to for a long amount of time at a high volume.

   A headphone user and Arkansas State University junior from Jonesboro studying graphic design, Kennedy Crawford said she is aware of the potential dangers of headphones but values them too much to not use them.

   “I use them for a lot,” she said. “Like cleaning, working out, doing homework, so I pretty much always have them on me.”

   According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to loud sounds may damage  structures and nerve fibers in the inner ear, resulting in noise-induced hearing loss. Causes of noise-induced hearing loss range from a single exposure to a very loud sound, to constant listening to loud sounds over an extended period.

   Crawford said she uses her headphones every day with her music at max volume but does not yet notice a change in her hearing.

   “If I have any change, I haven’t noticed it, but I wouldn’t be able to notice unless I got tested,” Crawford said.

   Dr. Lindsay White, doctor of audiology and assistant professor of communication disorders at Arkansas State University, said she pays attention to if her headphone’s audio level is safe for her ears.

   “You need your program to be loud enough that you can understand and get the full effect of your program or music you’re listening to but I think being an audiologist, I’m more aware of the harmful effects,” she said.

   White said the cause of noise-induced hearing loss results from damage to the extremely sensitive sensory-receptor cells found in the ear. These cells easily become damaged from loud sounds over time. The volume and duration of noise in a user’s headphones, can worsen the effects of noise-induced hearing loss.

   “I kind of think about it like sun exposure,” White said. “It’s accumulative over time. A little bit of listening today, plus a little bit of listening tomorrow over a duration of time can result in permanent damage to the ears.”

85 decibels for more than eight hours a day can damage the ear. The average pair of headphones can reach levels up to 110 decibels. According to the Harvard Health Blog, exposure to a volume of 105 to 110 decibels damages the ear in five minutes. White said that the louder the people listen to music, the shorter the amount of time they can safely listen.

   Dr. Matthew Taylor, a doctor of audiology at Taylor Hearing Centers in Mountain Home, said he recommends programming headphones to ensure they cannot go above certain audio levels. To alert their users they are listening to music at unsafe levels, phone companies implemented a warning system tasked with sending a notification to the users’ phone if audio levels are too high. White said listeners should not ignore those warnings.

   “You can actually get apps,” White said. “Like parents, for example, can put an app on their child’s phone that will limit the amount of volume that they have access to.”