Trading Our AirPods for Hearing Aids

The prevalence of AirPods is going to lead to early hearing loss for this generation.

Walking through Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) there is never a shortage of kids traveling the halls with little white bars sticking out of their ears. Is this some sort of weird new fad of leaving a Q-tip in your ear? Not quite. So, what are these little white things in almost every teenagers ear now: Apple AirPods. These tiny little wireless earbuds make it so much easier to listen to music in class and just around school because to engage them the user simply has to put them in their ears to start playing music. However, AirPods also have a flaw because kids keep putting the volume on their music higher and higher, to tune out the world, without realizing the negative effects of listening to music at such a high volume for a long period of time.

Most teenagers listen to music religiously whenever they have free time, on the commute to and from school, in between classes and throughout the day. This means that teenagers need a way to listen to music so only they can hear it, and when this happens this leads to more and more headphone use.

High school students are using headphones probably now more than ever which does not help the fact that most students don’t feel there is a connection between hearing loss and listening to music at elevated levels that are more than recommended by manufacturers of headphones. But hearing loss is real.

Manufacturers of headphones like Apples AirPods recommend listening to music at about 60 to 80 decibels, this is the range where you will be able to hear it clearly without it doing any long term damage to your ears. When asked how loud they listen to their music, three FSSA seniors (Alejandra Rodriguez, Alice Baum and Elisabeth Martin) each responded the same.

“If I am wearing headphones I will only go up to half way. Past that point is too loud for my ears,” said Alice. Elisabeth added that she listens to music halfway because it gives her a headache after a while if it’s any louder.

Elisabeth and Alice clearly described the beginning signs of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom from noise induced hearing loss, which can lead to a constant ringing of the ears that cannot be cured. This will happen at that 90 to 100 decibel sound barrier, which usually on most phones occurs when the volume on headphones is turned up about two thirds of the way up the volume bar. This could mean kids who want to listen to music louder than recommended may be turning their AirPods in for hearing aids later in life due to irreversible inner ear damage.

While this issue plagues a lot of teenagers and even some adults, a lot of people do know that hearing loss can occur when music is played too loud.

“It’s serious issue because teens like the feeling of kind of shutting themselves out from the world, but an alternative could be noise canceling headphones,” says Elisabeth.

AirPods and other in-ear headphones rarely have any sound deadening, where the musical seclusion comes from the volume of music that’s played. Alice was able to pinpoint this exactly when she said that people who listen to their music at 100 percent in headphones will have a higher chance of hearing loss.

There are ways to prevent teen hearing loss, as stated before, just using noise canceling headphones will allow you to listen to music at a lower volume with less noise pollution. The drawback is noise canceling headphones are often more expensive and larger than headphones you can just throw in your pocket and forget about them. The issue isn’t as much of the headphones as it is teens need to do their research and know the consequences of playing music too loud. Companies can also do a better job at advertising how to properly use headphones, and teens need to realize that sacrificing a little bit if noise pollution will be more than worth it in the long run.

– by Matthew Reisacher ’19