In many ways, technology has improved our standard of living. We have more access to information than ever before, with instant updates on our personal electronic devices. Technology has improved emergency response time, gotten better at predicting inclement weather, and has provided new forms of treatment in medical care.
When it comes to hearing health, there have been significant technological strides. Hearing aids now provide wearers with instant access to audio through their smartphones, streaming phone conversations, music, and other media directly to the hearing aids. Their small size and super-fast sound processing platforms ensure that people with hearing loss now hear better than ever before. Certain hearing aids have also been found to outperform normal hearing in challenging noise situations!
Even so, advancements in technology are a double-edged sword. The dependency and efficiency of today’s electronics could potentially harm our hearing, if left unchecked. Moreover, some studies have posited that modern life is louder than ever before. The main concern is the on-going exposure to loud noises, which could harm your hearing and lead to noise-induced hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common forms of hearing loss, along with presbycusis (age-related). It is a form of sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs in the inner ear, due to the irreparable damage of inner ear hair cells. Inner ear hair cells receive vibrations of sound waves from the middle ear and translate them into neural signals sent to the brain to be processed as sound. This form of hearing loss may be caused by certain antibiotic medications, presbycusis, or trauma to the head and neck area, to name a few.
Another cause of sensorineural hearing loss is exposure to loud sounds. All sounds can be measured in decibels. A regular conversation, sitting face to face with someone, usually clocks in around 60 decibels. Sounds that could harm our hearing – after just one hour of exposure – tend to be above 85 decibels. At 120 decibels, we may be at risk for immediate, permanent hearing damage.
With more reliable rechargeable batteries, our electronics these days last longer than devices such as the Walkman, which required constant battery changes. Advancements in technology mean we have access to clearer, richer sound than ever before. This makes watching film or video, or listening music, far more enjoyable than the days when images were blurry or sounds were muddled and scratchy.
Moreover, there is so much more at our disposal these days. In a single hour of surfing the internet, we could run through videos on YouTube, a TV show on Netflix, and have a video chat with a friend. We don’t even have to sit at home to do this! We can access these various forms of media virtually anywhere we go, thanks to 3G and WiFi. And usually, we’re accessing the audio with the use of convenient earbuds.
Portable audio devices are ubiquitous now, and earbuds are convenient and portable. In previous generations, headphones were usually worn over the ear, which is significantly less dangerous to hearing than earbuds.
Coupled with long-lasting battery life of personal electronic devices, such as a smartphone, iPod, or tablet, it is not uncommon for people to be plugged in for many hours at a time, with earbuds, playing music and media at high-risk volumes. Though some devices offer volume control or alerts to let you know that you are approaching dangerously loud levels, they are easily ignored.
Earbuds play sounds 7 to 9 decibels higher than over-the-ear headphones, and since they are not effective at blocking out extraneous noise, earbud wearers tend to turn them up louder in order to drown out competing sounds. The proximity of the earbud to the eardrum can lead to serious damage.
Reducing the amount of damaging noises in your daily life will help to prevent hearing loss in the long term. Using noise-canceling headphones is the healthiest option for your hearing, as they cancel out external noise and do not require you to crank up the volume in order to hear. While listening to music or media on your personal electronic devices, be sure to wear noise-canceling over-the-ear headphones, rather than earbuds, and follow the 60-60 rule: 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time. Make sure to give your ears a chance to rest!
At Arizona Balance and Hearing Aids, we are excited by advancements in technology – especially hearing aid technology. Visit us for a hearing test and learn more about the sophisticated hearing devices we offer.