Can Earbuds Cause Ringing in the Ears?

Listening to loud music with headphones or earbuds can create permanent hearing damage. With the growing use of personal music players, this is becoming a bigger problem for our society than we realize.

The ear has three parts: our ear canal, our eardrum, and the cochlea, the hearing organ. Loud noise exposure can cause permanent damage to the cochlea.

When the cochlea is damaged, it creates a filtered signal up to the brain, and the auditory brain may interpret this as a ringing sound. We call that “ringing in the ears”, or tinnitus.

Dr. Thompson explains the risks and benefits of wearing headphones and earbuds.

Is Tinnitus Permanent?

Sometimes tinnitus is temporary and hearing goes back to normal after a few days or weeks. Other times, tinnitus is permanent.

We measure loudness in decibels. Generally noise below 80 decibels will not cause damage to your hearing, unless you listen to that noise for many hours of the day. Most headphones or earbuds can go much louder than 80 decibels.

Close-up devices like earbuds cause ringing in the ears when we use them without care. So here’s what I recommend to continue enjoying your music but also be safe and protect your hearing.

The 60% Rule

Try to keep your volume level around 60% of the whole range that you’re given on your device.

Also, try not to listen to your headphones all day. Give yourself some break periods where you’re able to experience quiet.

And finally, just remember that the more hours you listen at a loud volume, the higher your risk of damaging your hearing, or possibly causing ringing in the ears.

Headphones and earbuds cause tinnitus for many people, but they don’t have to. These simple precautions can protect your hearing and let you enjoy your favorite sounds for years to come.

If you want to learn more about your tinnitus, consider joining our free newsletter. And remember, take your journey one step at a time.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson is an audiologist in California and founder of Pure Tinnitus. Dr. Thompson has a comprehensive knowledge of tinnitus management. He completed his residency at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and is a past board member of the California Academy of Audiology. Via telehealth, Dr. Thompson provides services to patients with hearing loss and tinnitus.

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