Digital Dangers: Headphones leading cause of hearing loss

(WKRG)–You’ve seen them, and I’m willing to bet you’ve heard them too.

Beats headphones are without question the hottest audio accessory on the market. Especially popular among teens, the headphones are known for their bass-boosting, high-fidelity sound.

But according to the experts, they should also be known for hearing loss.

“This is a whole new generation of children, adolescents, 20-year-olds, who may show up with older ears at a much younger age,” said Dr. Kimberly Elliott, an ear doctor at Premier Medical.

Elliott says it’s not just Beats headphones — it’s earbuds too — or any audio accessory designed to funnel sound directly into the ear. Children are especially vulnerable to hearing loss, according to Premier Medical audiologist Jennifer Taylor-Guy.

“It’s always a problem, even in adults, but in small children, the smaller the ear the louder the sound grows in the ear, and the more dangerous it can be,” said Taylor-Guy.

Elliott says what’s most concerning is that countless listeners don’t know the irreversible damage they’re doing to their inner ear. The sound waves from the headphones are destroying precious hair fibers that are critical for us to perceive sound.  Damage from blasting music into our ears during our teenage years might not show up until our forties or fifties.

“You can think of it like waves beating against a shore,” Elliott said. “Basically the sound comes in and it beats and it beats and it beats over time and you crush the little hair fibers over time that transmit the sound.”

Elliott and Taylor-Guy agree the golden rule is to never listen to loud music above 50-percent volume. Getting kids to turn down their music is no easy task, but it’s one that falls directly onto parents.

“If [the parent] can hear it when they walk in the room, it’s too loud,” said Taylor-Guy.

Both experts stress that headphones themselves aren’t dangerous, but using them to blast music directly into our ears for hours a day will undoubtedly cause prolonged hearing loss later in life.

Watch the video for an in-depth demonstration as to what sound waves do when them permeate the inner ear.

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