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Hearing Experts Warn of Risks from Excessive Earbud Use

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Tuesday, August 16, 2022   

Many people are returning to recreational activities they suspended during the pandemic, and hearing experts warn cranking up music using earbuds can lead to hearing loss.

Claire Johnson, manager of clinical services for UnitedHealthcare and an audiologist, said many people listen to music while they are running a lawn mower or exercising in a loud gym, and explained listening to music over loud background noise can set the stage for ear damage.

She added there are tips to resist cranking up the volume.

"The good recommendation or quick, easy rule that we recommend at UnitedHealthcare Hearing is a 60/60 rule," Johnson explained. "Limiting music to 60 minutes at a time at 60% of the player's maximum volume."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in seven West Virginians lives with deafness or serious hearing difficulty. And one in eight people in the United States age 12 or older has experienced hearing loss in both ears, according to data from the National Institutes of Health.

Johnson suggested individuals who wear earbuds for long periods daily can have custom plugs made at an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist.

"You can go and actually get custom-made hearing protection," Johnson pointed out. "Those will help you keep the fidelity of the sound, but reduce the overall volume."

Johnson added diet is another important component of ear health.

"Foods like bananas, spinach and yogurt can provide nutrients that are going to help maintain your hearing health," Johnson advised. "It's something we don't often think about, but our inner ear is actually a really delicate organ that needs nourishing fuel as well."

More than one in two adults with hearing damage from noise do not have noisy jobs, meaning the exposure is likely recreational. And around one in four people who report "good" to "excellent" hearing likely already have some level of hearing damage, according to the CDC.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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