Experts warning: Are in-ear headphones bad for your ears?

Experts warning: Are in-ear headphones bad for your ears?

Let’s talk a little about the nature of hearing before answering the question: Are in-ear headphones bad for your ears? According to Merriam-Webster, hearing is defined as the process or function of recognizing sound which the stimuli sense. Scientifically, the vibrations or alterations in the force of the adjacent medium are detected through the ears.

The ears are composed of three main parts: the outer ear, inner ear, and middle ear. The outer ear has the ear canal that connects the ear drum and the pinna, the noticeable part of the ear. It is in the part that the in-ear headphones are gently pushed through.

The middle ear contains the small air filled chamber in the center of the eardrum. The inner ear consists of hair cells, corti, and other stimuli that respond to the vibrations.

The ear is sensitive to sound. Too high a volume of sound can cause permanent damage to the hair cells inside the ear. 

So, are in-ear headphones bad for your ears?

In-ear headphones can be bad for the ears if they are used irresponsibly. Increasing your headphones to the level that can damage the eardrums is not safe.

The recommended volume when using in-ear headphones is below 60 decibels. Going beyond it means that you’re damaging your ears.

Users won’t notice the damage immediately. They will experience it later in life. So, theoretically speaking, most youth of this generation might experience hearing loss or hearing impairment because they are always on their earphones.

Research from Wichita State University found out that students listen to music using in-ear headphones at 110 – 120 decibels, much higher compared to the recommended level. This volume level can cause permanent hearing impairment even in just 15 minutes.

Moreover, the National Institute of Health revealed that exposure to sound over 85 decibels could cause permanent hearing loss. It also warns that the damage cannot be treated and is permanent.

Statistics show high rate of potential hearing loss

The youth are the most affected by the possible hearing loss because they make up the largest portion of personal audio devices users and the most frequent attendees of entertainment venues. Over 1.1 billion youth are prone to hearing damage, the World Health Organization says.

The signs are already apparent. According to Dr. Sreekant Cherukuri of Munster, Indiana, hearing loss today is approximately 30 percent higher than in the 1980s and 1990s. Comparing the devices being used today and were used before is a clue.

The youth before used Walkman with AA batteries that last for short periods of time. Youth today are equipped with high-end devices that produce high-level sounds that last for longer periods of time.

Do you see the difference? Be aware of the volume level and the length of time when you use in-ear headphones. You do not want to damage your ears permanently. So, how to use in-ear headphones?

How to use in-ear headphones responsibly?

Experts recommend some tips on using in-ear headphones without causing any hearing damage. Save your ears by applying the following tips:

Keep the volume down

Avoid turning the volume of your in-ear headphone to the maximum. Some music lovers tend to tune it up to overpower background noise or external sound.

Observe the 60/60 rule

Keep the in-ear headphone at 60 percent volume level and listen for a maximum of 60 minutes a day. Some iPhones and MP3 players already have the smart volume feature which protects the users from too-high volume.

Give your ears a break

When you listen to around 100 decibels for 2 hours, you need at least 16 hours to allow your ears to recover. This is according to Action on Hearing Loss.

So, if you went to a party last night or listen to your in-ear headphones for two hours on a high volume, observe this 16-hour rule. This is how you give your ears a break. 


In-ear headphones are a great companion for music lovers. They can be brought along anywhere without any heavy weight.

They provide the high-quality sound and powerful bass, too. But experts warn about the excessive use of in-ear headphones.

They can cause permanent hearing loss. So to protect yourself, observe the above-mentioned tips on using in-ear headphones safely. Happy listening!

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