Health issues associated with the mis-use of headphones
Ear wax build up: Frequent or prolonged use of headphones can inhibit our ears’ natural process of removing wax from the ear canal, which may lead to ear wax build up and blockage. This is particularly so for earphones – or ear buds – that sit inside the ear. While ear wax has both lubricating and antimicrobial properties, if we do not treat a build-up it may lead to several complications, including pain, irritation, hearing difficulties, dizziness or ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
Wearing headphones, especially for extended periods of time, can increase the temperature and humidity inside the ear canal, creating ideal conditions for bacteria to grow, making us more prone to infection. If we don’t clean, or change, our headphones regularly this can cause bacteria to be introduced into the ear canals where they can start to spread. Lack of air circulation that comes with the use of headphones, especially those that sit in the ear canal, also promotes a good breeding ground for bacteria, further increasing the risk of developing ear infections.
Hearing loss and impairment
Using headphones can lead to a number of problems that may affect our hearing, including conditions such as tinnitus (a ringing or buzzing noise in the ear not from an outside stimulus), noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and hyperacusis (an increased sensitivity to normal environmental sounds). The likelihood of developing these conditions is greatly increased if the headphone volume is loud; anything exceeding 85-90 decibels (units that measure the intensity of a sound). By way of a guide, fully-throttled motorcycles and chainsaws generate approximately 100 decibels, which can damage hearing in as little as 30 minutes. Someone listening to music, with earbuds, at just 70% of the maximum volume is getting about 85 decibels.
Pain and numbness
Studies have shown that those of us who use headphones or earbuds, especially frequently for extended periods of time, are at a greater risk of experiencing discomfort from pain or numbness in our ears. This can be due to ill-fitting ear pieces that sit inside the ear or from pressure on the outer ear from headphones designed to sit on or over the ears.
Effects of Bluetooth and wireless technology
Animal studies have shown that some health conditions may be affected by possible exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted by these devices. However, more research will need to be conducted so that we can fully understand what risks, if any, wireless headphones may pose to human health.