It seems like earbuds are just about everywhere we look these days, and most of us don’t think twice about spending at least part of each day with a pair firmly lodged in our ears. But maybe it’s time to rethink our earbud obsession. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a warning that “1.1 billion young people are at risk of hearing loss because of personal audio devices, such as smartphones.” Most personal audio devices reach a maximum volume of 115 decibels, which can permanently damage hearing in as little as eight minutes.
Earbuds are safe—when we use safe listening practices. But unfortunately, most of us don’t use safe listening practices. Earbuds are basically tiny versions of full-size speakers that funnel music and sound directly into the ear canal. At full volume, handheld electronic devices are capable of making noises loud enough that you might as well be at a live rock concert. Permanent hearing loss can occur within minutes, and once the damage is done, it’s irreversible.
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