Headphone users credit music for lifting their mood. Naysayers blame the sound waves coming out of the headset for causing deafness. Which of the two viewpoints is closer to reality? Do headphones actually have a dark side? Or is that another myth peddled by conspiracy theorists?
Another claim that cynics make about earphones is that they cause toothache. That the signals they send into your ear canal somehow make their way into your mouth and weaken the integrity of your teeth. Most people will laugh at this claim. Yet there are some who believe in it.
Are their fears justified? That’s precisely what we’re going to find in this article. Our team of experts has consulted multiple studies and research papers to determine whether wearing headphones cause deafness or toothache, or is that claim a scare tactic to make youngsters take out their earbuds.
Can Wearing Headphones Cause Deafness?
Wearing headphones cannot cause deafness. Research published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information proves it. The researchers reached that conclusion after examining more than 130 customer service representatives of a mobile phone operator.
One study, in fact, has found that the number of US adults suffering from hearing loss has fallen in the past three decades. That is even though the usage of headphones or earphones has gone through the roof over the same time. But that doesn’t mean that headphones are always safe.
Various studies have concluded that listening to loud music for extended intervals may damage your hearing. Take the example of one cited at the start of this section – it found 21.2% of its subjects suffering from hearing impairment.
That means that those of you who hear their music loud enough may end up damaging their hearing. The level of damage may not reach the point where it would cause deafness. But it would surely be enough to leave a negative impact on the quality of your life.
How loud is too loud?
Here’s how you can decide if your headphones are dangerously loud:
- Ringing In Ears
Do you hear ringing in your ears every time you take out your buds? Does the world around you sound a little muffled after you’ve listened to your favorite song? Then you need to turn down the volume.
Both of these are signs that your music is too loud. They may not cause deafness but might end up doing lasting damage to your hearing if you don’t end up toning down the volume.
- Unable to listen
Here’s a general rule of thumb: your headphones are too loud if they prevent you from understanding what the other person – standing at an arm’s length – has to say in a normal voice.
Provided the other person has to raise their voice to make you hear what they’re saying, you should low the volume and decrease your hearing impairment risk.
- Hold them out
Take your headphones off your head, turn them on, set them at your preferred volume, and hold them at arm’s length. Are you able to hear the lyrics clearly without too much effort?
If that’s the case, lower the volume and undertake the test once again. Your headphones’ loudness level won’t be safe unless you CANNOT hear the music clearly from an arm’s length.
- Measure sound level
Experts tell us that sounds at or below 85dB are likely to damage your hearing over the long term. People who expose them to such noise levels are at a greater risk of hearing loss.
That’s why you must know how much noise level your headphones are pumping into your ears. Make sure that the level is below 80dBA and you’d be okay.
- Ask a friend
Here’s another rule of thumb you can apply to make sure your music isn’t too loud. Have a friend sit right next to you, put on your earphones, and ask if they can listen to the music.
There are no prizes for guessing that if they do, you need to turn down the volume level as it isn’t only potentially harming your hearing but is also making others around you uncomfortable.
How to avoid earache?
Here’s how you can protect both your ears and your hearing:
- Invest in Noise Cancelling Headphones
Here’s what noise-canceling headphones would do: they would block background noises and allow you to enjoy your music without reaching for the volume control.
One of our favorite noise-canceling headphones is Sony’s WHCH710N. It is equipped with dual-sensor technology that empowers this headset to drown outside noises and protect your hearing.
- Follow the 60/60 rule
There are two portions of the 60/60 rule. The first requires you to only listen to your favorite tracks for 60 minutes at a time, before taking a much-needed break.
The second portion advises setting the volume at or below 60%. Audiophiles who follow this rule of thumb vouch for its utility in keeping them safe from earache and hearing damage.
- Download volume monitoring app
Android users who want to keep earache and hearing damage at bay would do well to download the Sound Meter app. It monitors the volume level and warns you if it gets too loud for your ears.
iPhone users don’t need an external app. They can use the pre-programmed Health App to know whether they’re hurting their ears by listing to music too loud.
- Get custom-made headphones
Those of you looking for a hardware-based panacea to their ear troubles would do well to get these 3D-printed earphones that conform to the shape of your ear canal to provide the perfect fit.
Made by Lantos Technologies – the company that makes custom tips for Apple EarPods and Bose SoundSport earphones, they’re pricey but would save you from earaches.
How long is it safe to wear headphones?
Health experts tell us that it’s safe to wear headphones for eight hours a day when listening at 85dB. The limit prescribed here is maximum – you should get some sort of hearing protection if your job or routine exposes you to 85dB level for greater than eight hours.
Can Wearing Headphones or Earphones cause toothache?
Wearing headphones can cause toothache as sound vibrations can hurt your teeth. Dentists tell us that people with sensitive teeth – those who feel tingling sensations whenever they ingest something hot/cold – are at a greater risk of facing this problem. Here’s why.
Aside from the protective enamel that coats our teeth, their base is filled with innumerable water-filled tubes. These tubes are connected both with each other and to the inner pulp – which is a collection of pressure-sensitive nerves and capillaries.
The pulp is responsible for not only sensing pressure but also sending signals to the brain. Our brain has a pain threshold – below which it doesn’t register anything as uncomfortable. However, when the pressure signals that it’s receiving exceed from the pulp that threshold, on comes to pain.
That is precisely what happens when people with sensitive teeth hear high-frequency sounds. The fluctuating pressure of the sound waves causes water-filled tubes to vibrate, which then transmits the vibration to the pulp that then sends pain signals to the brain.
How to avoid toothache?
Follow these tips to avoid toothache:
- Don’t brush overzealously
All of us are aware that excess of everything is bad. Yet we forget this universal truth when we’re brushing our teeth, in the hope to get that eye-catching smile.
While it may give us sparkling teeth, overzealous brushing may also wear down tooth enamel and cause tooth sensitivity. That’s why we suggest our readers use an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor.
- Give up the habit of tooth grinding
Do you ever wake up with a headache for no reason? Find yourself clicking in your jay every time you open your mouth? Both of these are signs that you grind your teeth. Here’s why you shouldn’t.
Aside from causing misalignment of teeth, teeth grinding can also result in the deterioration of enamel – thereby exposing you to toothache when hearing high-frequency sounds.
- Use an alcohol-based mouthwash
The build-up of plaque and gingivitis in your mouth can also cause toothache in the long run. Both these substances grow in silence until the damage they’ve done results in extreme pain.
That’s why we recommend that you use an alcohol-based mouthwash on a daily basis. Not only will it keep both these substances at bay. But it will also give you a fresh breath.
- Visit a dentist
If you continue to experience toothache even after acting on the abovementioned tips, your problem may be more severe and might require a trip to the dentist.
Also, check this video where people found it helpful listening to a specific sound frequency that can bring dental pain relief:
There are two things that you can deduce from this article. The first is that wearing headphones cannot cause deafness. But that doesn’t mean that there are no drawbacks of listening to your favorite tracks at maximum volume. Doing the same might leave you with some hearing impairment.
Secondly, while listening to your favorite tracks can cause toothache, the culprit here is not your headphones or earphones. Instead, it is your sensitive teeth that are to blame.