Can Earbuds Cause Hearing Loss?

Learn How to Tune In Without Risking Permanent Hearing Damage
Last update on Mar, 01, 2024

Unplugged: Exploring the Impact of Earbuds on Hearing Health

Do you notice how almost everyone around us, including yourself, is tuned in to their earbuds? From listening to our favorite songs, audiobooks, or podcasts to connecting with friends or colleagues on the go, these tiny devices have become an essential part of our routines.

But, as with anything in life, you may wonder if too much of something is good for you. For instance, can prolonged use of earbuds negatively affect your hearing health?

In this article, we'll answer some commonly asked questions about the link between earbuds and hearing loss. We'll also provide a few tips on listening to your favorite sounds while keeping your hearing health a priority.


Understanding the Different Types of Earbuds

There are several types of earbuds available in the market, each with its own unique design and features.

Two popular types include in-ear and standard.

  • In-ear earbuds feature a silicon tip that fits snugly inside the ear canal, providing a high level of noise isolation and can help prevent sound leakage.
  • Standard earbuds have a speaker on each side. Unlike in-ear earbuds that have a silicon tip or mold, standard earbuds can slip out of your ears frequently.  

Next, we have wired vs. wireless. The main differences between the two is how they connect to your device and whether or not they need to be charged.

  • Wired earbuds have a physical wire that connects to your device's headphone jack.
  • Wireless earbuds use Bluetooth® technology to connect wirelessly to your device. This means more flexibility and freedom of movement since you aren't tethered to your device. However, they do require separate charging from your smart device.

Finally, we have noise-canceling earbuds vs. standard.

  • Noise-canceling earbuds use advanced technology to actively cancel out external sounds. They help reduce noise in busy or noisy environments, making them ideal for use in public spaces.
  • Standard earbuds provide passive noise isolation by blocking some external noise. They're generally more affordable and may be preferred for casual listening.

The type of earbud you choose can greatly affect your hearing experience, but does one cause more harm to your hearing health than the other?

Are AirPods Bad For Your Ears?

Most people assume that using earbuds, such as Apple AirPods™, Bose®, or Jabra®, are more harmful to your hearing health than other types of hearing devices, such as on-ear or over-ear headphones, which are not placed directly inside your ear canal.

Experts suggest that both types of devices (earbuds and headphones) pose an equal risk to your hearing health, meaning one is not better or worse than the other. In fact, if you live near a construction site or enjoy attending live concerts, you may be at high risk of damaging your hearing and experiencing hearing loss even if you rarely use earbuds.

To put it simply, the main issue with earbuds or headphones is not the type of device you have but how long you use them and how loud the volume is.

With that said, there may be a few advantages to investing in earbuds or headphones that offer advanced features, such as noise-canceling technology, as you might be less likely to increase your volume over time. More on that later!

Is It Bad To Wear Headphones All Day?

Yes. Prolonged earbud (and headphone) usage can cause noise-induced hearing loss.

This type of hearing loss occurs when loud noises damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear, which are responsible for transmitting sound signals to the brain. Over time, these hair cells can become damaged or even die, leading to permanent hearing loss<link to hearing loss reversible blog>.

Exposure to loud noises can also cause tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears, which may be linked to a higher risk of dementia

Best Practices for Earbuds

Experts recommend taking breaks from using earbuds to give your ears a much-needed rest. A simple way to do this is to keep the volume under 60% of its max volume and limit listening time to a maximum of 60 minutes at a time.

Keep in mind that the longer you listen, the lower the volume should be.

How Long Does It Take for Earbuds to Damage Hearing?

There is no set time frame for when earbuds can start damaging your hearing. Again, it mainly depends on the volume level and duration of use.

If you frequently listen to music on high volume for long periods of time, it is important to take a break and visit a hearing care provider. They can assess your hearing health and work with you to create a routine where you can still enjoy your earbuds without causing further damage to your hearing

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Woman listening to airpods

Is Noise Canceling Bad For You Ears?

TIP: 60/60 Rule

Similar to the debate over earbuds vs. headphones, some people worry that noise-canceling headphones may increase the risk of hearing damage.

However, if used properly, noise-canceling earbuds or headphones may actually help protect your hearing by reducing the need to turn up the volume to overcome external noise.

Remember the 60/60 rule to protect you and your children's hearing health. Again, this means limiting the volume of sound to no more than 60% of the maximum volume and keeping your earbuds time to no more than 60 minutes.

It's also worth noting that repeated exposure to loud noises can speed up hearing loss and cause the ear to age 50% faster

Woman running with airpods

Get Your Ears Checked!

Don't forget to make hearing care a part of your routine by visiting a hearing care provider for a comprehensive evaluation. Remember, you and your loved ones' hearing health is important, so be sure to make it a priority with support from Amplifon. We'll help you check your benefits and find a provider in your neighborhood. Want to check your hearing now? Try our free virtual screening!

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