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Episode 203: Protect Your Hearing and Balance

Video Highlights

- Loud music impacts more than hearing.
- Specific volume recommendations.
- Specific exposure recommendations.

Today we’re talking about headphones. This is actually very important with relationship to protecting your hearing and your balance.

As you know, if you’ve been watching our blogs for any length of time, you’ve been to any of the courses, we talk a lot about the inner ear also called the vestibular system.

One of my fascinations over the last, probably five to 10 years is, how is modern technology potentially impacting us in either a good or bad way with regards to how our brains function? Now, one of the things we’ve known for a long time is that headphone use or any exposure to loud music, but particularly from headphones, can be detrimental to your hearing.

Now, what’s happening around the world, if you read about this, is that many young people because of the huge accessibility of technology and the fact that they like to listen to their music loud.

We’re seeing a massive increase in the percentage of young people who are currently suffering from premature hearing loss. There are a lot of guidelines available out there, so I assume most people have heard about this and they’ve talked about it or they thought about it for themselves.

But again, because I work in a health and fitness environment what I typically see are more and more and more people who are retreating into their headphones during their training sessions. They use music to drown out other noise, et cetera and so when I talk about a couple of recommendations that we have for you, the reason that this has come up however is that a study was published last month discussing also the impact of long term use of headphones in a personal music system, which is what they called it in the research paper, on the vestibular system.

Now, the vestibular system, if you’re familiar with it, is your inner ear. It plays a huge role in the body on many different levels.

One of the primary things it does though is maintain our balance and it helps us maintain balance through a series of different reflexes that involve musculature or the neck and spine.

Now, this latest research study they looked at chronic users of personal music stereos. Young people using headphones and they, again, looked at not only how long they’ve been using them but at what volume.

What they discovered was that the users, the chronic users of loud music through headphones were beginning to suffer a gradual breakdown.

Not only of their hearing but also of a reflex related to inner ear control of the neck musculature.

Person wearing headphones is rocking out to music.
Person wearing headphones is rocking out to music.

In the research they said that there are other factors that could be involved but it was consistent. It was actually 100% of the long term users at a high volume level that they were seeing these changes in. There’s a lot of other stuff that could be discussed around this, but to me it’s just another idea or reminder to protect your hearing and balance. Let me give you the rules around this. Your typical iPhone, iPod, mp3 player if we still even have those.

Whatever’s out there in terms of stuff that you can listen to music on. Most of them are capable of blasting music into your ears at around 115 to 120 decibels. Now, 115 to 120 decibels, if you listen to that for approximately one day, that’s sufficiently loud and sufficiently damaging that you can create permanent hearing loss. That’s how powerful these players are.

The typical recommendation that I make for people is: Number one, choose the right type of headphones to protect yourself and number two, choose the right volume.

Based off, again, research that’s come out looking at particularly the hearing aspect. What I normally recommend is use over the ear headphones whenever possible. Because in ear headphones, like you would get with a typical phone purchase naturally increase the decibel level of anything that you’re listening to by approximately nine decibels because they’re simply closer to your eardrum, the tympanic membrane.

The closer they are the more volume you’re actually going to be experiencing. We actually believe that the in ear headphone is a little bit more dangerous. I recommend over the ear headphones and whenever possible use noise canceling as well because of way that those systems work that also provides your ears with a little added protection.

That’s number one.

Number two, here’s the most important recommendation. How much and how long? I want you to use the rule of 60. All right?

The rule of 60 basically works like this.

If you’re going to listen to music through headphones, particularly if you’re going to do it during a training session or you’re in a crowded gym and you’re trying to drown out everyone or you’re on an airplane.

The basic rule is, do not use them for more than 60 minutes without give your ears a rest and try to never use your personal music system or personal video system at greater than 60% volume.

Because again, if you look at most of these systems, 60% keeps the decibel level at a range that your ears can deal with, they can recover from and should prevent you from having any kind of long term injury, either to your hearing mechanisms or to your vestibular system.

That’s my little public service announcement for you this week.

If you have any questions about this let us know otherwise protect those ears.

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