Audiologist Questions Deafness

Can using earbuds make me deaf?

I have heard that using devices like bluetooth headsets and earphones can cause deafness. Is this really true?

4 Answers

Deaf? Unlikely. Will you develop noise-induced hearing loss? Possibly. Some devices limit your volume to safe levels, but usually this can be overridden by the user. What we do know is that prolonged exposure to high noise levels will cause noise-induced hearing loss as well as other physiological changes to your body similar to those caused by stress--such as fatigue, increased cortisol levels, increased blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, etc. Hearing loss, depending on the intensity of the sound, can occur with as little as 15 minutes of exposure. OSHA requires employees exposed to 90+ decibels (dB) of noise over an 8-hour shift to use hearing protection. The Apple AirPods Max have been reported to be as high as 108 dB, which OSHA would allow unprotected exposure no more than about two minutes! My recommendation is, use your earbuds responsibly. If you absolutely MUST listen to your favorite song at full volume, don't make it a frequent thing. If, when you remove your earbuds, you notice a buzzing/humming noise or speech sounds muffled, you likely caused damage to your ears. Sometimes this is temporary and everything returns to normal. But, repeatedly exposing yourself to high noise levels will cause permanent damage. Joe Baker, MA, CCC-A Audiologist <> 440-438-3401
Exposure to loud sounds (85 dB or greater) over extended periods of time, can lead to hearing loss. You would be wise to keep the volume down or limit your exposure to loud sounds coming through your ear buds. Some ear buds are designed to limit excessive volume to protect the wear's hearing.   Angela R. Sieh Ceretto, M.A., CCC-A, FAAA Audiologist Pinnacle Audiology, LLC 6809 S. Minnesota Ave., Suite 101 605-306-4481  
Yes, this is true. An estimated 12.5% of children (approximately 5.2 million) and 17% of adults (approximately 26 million) have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise. Prolonged exposure to loud music increases your risk of hearing loss.

In general, sounds above 85 dB (decibels) are harmful, depending on how long and how often you are exposed to them and whether you wear hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs. For reference, normal conversation is about 60 dB, a lawn mower is about 90 dB, and a loud rock concert is about 120 dB.
Using ear buds and Bluetooth headphones at loud levels for prolonged periods of time can cause you to lose your hearing at a faster rate. Generally, people do not become deaf due to the use of these, however, it may mean you will need hearing aids sooner. If other people can hear whatever you are listening to, then your listening level is too loud.

Thank you for your question,

Dr. Connors, Au.D.