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Health Fusion: Safety tips for cranking up the earbud volume

When you use ear buds or headphones, how loud do you crank up the volume? How loud is too loud? In this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion," Viv Williams talks to an audiologist about how to protect your hearing safe when you're listening to tunes.

Earbuds and  headphones
Listening with ear buds and headphones
Viv Williams

ROCHESTER — Between video conference meetings, watching videos and listening to tunes, people spend a lot of time using headphones and earbuds. Does all of that listening put your hearing at risk?

Dr. Karin Ross , an Olmsted Medical Center audiologist, says she's seeing more teenagers with hearing loss that's likely due to cranking up the volume on listening devices. Her recommendation is for everyone to pay attention to volume.

"We have the ability to turn the volume up pretty loud on most devices," says Ross.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website notes that 120 decibels is what you'd hear standing next to a blaring siren and it's enough to cause ear injury and pain. Ross said her kid's smartphone can put out 130 decibels at top volume, which is as loud as some military jets at takeoff.

"Turning down that volume to about half way, cuts that sound in half," says Ross. "So you're looking at about 65 decibels, which is plenty loud and causing no damage to your ears."


How does loud sound hurt your hearing? Ross says your inner ear, the cochlea, is shaped like a snail and contains hair-like cilia and fluid. Sound enters in the inner ear in waves. If the sound is really loud, the waves are strong and can bend or break the cilia, damaging hearing temporarily or permanently.

Ross has tips for keeping your hearing safe.

  • If others can hear what you're listening to, it's too loud.
  • Keep volume bar to half with earbuds and three-quarters max with a headset.
  • Wear ear protection if you're using power tools, such as drills and lawn mowers.
  • Wear ear plugs at concerts and race tracks.
  • Wear ear protection while driving a tractor or doing factory work.

Follow the  Health Fusion podcast on  Apple Spotify and  Google podcasts. For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at  vwilliams@newsmd.com . Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

When arctic blasts plummet temperatures, stepping outside can be dangerous. In this Health Fusion episode, Viv Williams talks to a researcher about what intensely cold air could do to anyone's lungs.

Opinion by Viv Williams
Viv Williams hosts the NewsMD podcast and column, "Health Fusion." She is an Emmy (and other) award-winning health and medical reporter whose stories have run on TV, digital and newspaper outlets nationwide. Viv is passionate about boosting people's health and happiness by helping them access credible, reliable and research-based health information from top experts. She regularly interviews experts and patients from leading medical institutions, such as Mayo Clinic.
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