Can AirPods damage your hearing? The answer is yes, whether it's Beats, AirPods, or Bose. Hearing loss can occur when you use headphones or earbuds, as well as when you are exposed to loud noise.
When your ears are exposed to loud noises, the fluid in your inner ear moves more. This can seriously damage the hair cells that give messages to your brain.
Headphones are not dangerous in and of themselves. You could listen to it at a low-to-medium volume all day without getting sick. It's only when you listen to loud music for long periods of time that your ears begin to suffer damage.
How loud is too loud?
Decibels are used to quantify the volume of a sound (dB). I'm not sure where you're reading this, but the typical house noise level is roughly 40 decibels (dB). When you're at the office, a standard discussion with a colleague is heard at roughly 60 decibels. In India the construction noise from the next building road that never ends is around 90 decibels, and when your friend scream “WHY CAN’T THIS STOP”, it is roughly 110 decibels. In the inner ear (cochlea), the average human contains 16,000 hair cells that allow the brain to register sounds. These hair cells can be overworked by loud noise.
A live performance is a classic illustration of this phenomenon. People often realize that they can't hear as well after leaving a loud event. This is due to the loud sound bending and overworking their hair cells. Multiple studies have already established that people who wear earbuds increase their volume by an average of 13 decibels over the ambient noise. If the decibel level in an office or coffee shop starts at roughly 77 dB, you'll quickly reach 90 dB once you've "drowned" it all out.
Even when the hair straightens up within a few hours to a few days, there is a chance that they will be permanently harmed, if not destroyed. With enough repetition, you'll have a permanent hearing issue.
Research Conducted on Earphones damaging hearing
According to research, the average Indian spends 19.1 hours listening to music every week, which is greater than the global average of 18 hours. Now, consider how frequently you've noticed that your music is excessively loud. According to a 2019 study, many of you will most likely answer never. AirPods could lead to tinnitus if you don't pay attention to the music volume for so long. Tinnitus is a condition in which you hear ringing or other disturbances in one or both ears.
Another study found that the majority of people who use earphones on a daily basis (particularly young people) do not believe their music is too loud. Despite this, the World Health Organization predicted in 2015 that 1.1 billion young people were at risk of hearing loss as a result of smartphone headphones and earbud use. This is genuinely surprising in the broad picture of human progress. “Our rate of hearing loss should be going down, and we know that it's not,” says audiologist Brian Fligor. Essentially, invasive and inefficient technology has jeopardized any centuries-long progress we've made toward healthier ossicles.
What causes the most damage to hearing?
Earbuds are the type of headphones that are most prone to cause hearing difficulties. Adults listen to their music louder with earbuds than with over-the-ear headphones, according to a 2007 study. It was also revealed that users wearing earbuds were more likely than those using over-the-ear headphones to increase their level to accommodate for background noise.
A noisy restaurant has a decibel level of 75dB, whereas a noisy railway station platform has a decibel level of 80dB. Both can cause people to exceed the acceptable volume level of 85dB. As per World Health Organization recommendations by Apple, here's the safest sound level to listen to with headphones:
- No more than 5 hours each day at 80 dB.
- No more than 2 hours per day at 85 dB.
- No more than 30 minutes per day at 90 dB.
- No more than 15 minutes per day at 95 dB.
- No more than 3-5 minutes each day at 100 dB.
AirPods Pro's noise cancellation can minimize background noise by up to 20 decibels while also lowering music volume automatically. Earbuds, such as the Apple AirPods, provide sound straight to the ear. Because the sound wave does not lose any energy across such a small distance, the volume can be increased by up to 10dB. According to Dr. Shelly Chadha of the World Health Organization, over "1 billion young people" are in danger of hearing loss, owing to the recent growth in the usage of earbuds such as AirPods. Furthermore, according to the American Osteopathic Association, one out of every five teenagers today will develop hearing loss, a rate that is 30 percent higher than it was 20 years ago.
“Loudness” and its equivalent unit, decibel, quantify sound pressure level, which is related to amplitude. Internally, your iPhone may use amplitude to calculate the decibel of music volume or any other sound output. In fact, the ‘Health App' for iPhone in iOS 13 provides a complete measurement of sound level. It can display the audio levels of headphones in hours, days, and weeks, as well as a concise summary that individuals can use to keep track of and be aware of their audio level patterns (see below). This functionality works even better with Apple Watch because it can detect and send noise notifications when the ambient sound level rises above a certain threshold.
Checking your settings
If you have an iPhone, go to Settings > Sound And Haptics > Headphone Safety. Check the Reduce Loud Sounds. Now you are a slider where you can choose the decibel levels and the iPhone will analyze headphone audio level and reduce any sound that is over the set decibel level.
There is also an option called Headphone Notification, this option will measure headphone audio levels. If you exceed the recommended 7-day limit, a notification is sent and the volume is turned down.
According to Apple, data shows sounds are “generally considered loud when they’re over 80 decibels.” If you listen to audio levels around and over this continuously, you can permanently damage your ears over time.
“Repeated, long-term exposure to loud sounds can lead to permanent damage. Consider lowering the volume when listening to audio through your headphones. Sound levels as low as 74 dB can be considered loud if you’re exposed for a long enough duration,” explains Apple.
Most smartphones have volume limiters that allow you to adjust the “maximum” safe volume. You can even download apps for the same.
If you have an Android phone, go to Settings > Sound > Volume to see if there is a limiter available. One can be found under the three-dot menu on Samsung phones, for example. If your phone doesn't have a built-in limiter, you can use an app like Volume Lock.
Additionally, any active noise cancellation feature is generally a good idea if you expose yourself to hours of music on a daily basis. You can easily reduce a minimum of 10 decibels of sound exposure. Apple AirPod Max, Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, and the Sony WH-1000XM3 are some of the best on the market. Headphones are significantly better than earbuds at fostering aural leisure without causing long-term damage to your ears. For starters, they literally shield your ears from the outside world's noises. These are examples of active noise-canceling headphones, which are units that use small super-microphones to cancel out distracting background sounds.
How Loud and for How Long?
In conclusion, with the last few software updates for iPhone, you have options to take care of and protect your ear. From getting notified to automatic volume reduction if you exceed the recommended.
Although not specifically mentioned at 100% of iPhone volume is between AirPods can be between 102-112 decibels. Also since noise exposure is cumulative, which simply means the longer durations you are exposed to loud noise, the greater the impact on your ears. So a simple 60/60 rule can be a guiding principle, listen for just 60 minutes a day at 60% of the volume.