Do earbuds and headphones cause hearing loss?

Ear buds and headphones can contribute to hearing loss even listening just 15 minutes a day, if the volume is at or above 85 decibels. The louder the sound, the faster hearing damage occurs. Most smartphones and tablets can produce volumes over 100 decibels.

How earbuds and headphones cause hearing damage?

Exposure to loud sounds—at or above 85 decibels—is a leading cause of hearing loss, because it damages the cells of your inner ear. When it comes to noise-induced hearing loss, it all depends on how loud and how long.

Earbuds and headphones sit in or close to the ear canal, which places sound very close to the inner ear. This proximity has the effect of boosting sound by an equivalent of nine decibels. That's like going from a tinkling bell to the drone of a lawn mower. Also, many people boost the volume to block out background noise. 

These days, many people wear earbuds for hours on end. Even moderately loud sound can cause hearing damage if you listen for too long. For example, listening to a 90-decibel sound for three hours can be as damaging as hearing a 155 decibel-sound (like a jet taking off) for just thirty seconds.

Remember the 60/60 rule; listen at 60% or the volume just 60 minutes a day.

Concerned that you or a loved one may have hearing damage? Learn the signs of hearing loss.

How to wear earbuds and decrease your risk? 


When wearing ear buds, keep the volume below 50%


Choose earmuff-style "noise-cancelling" headphones to reduce or eliminate background noise


If you prefer in-canal earbuds, make sure they fit tightly to block out more background noise


Invest in "custom" earbuds made from a replica of your ear canal. Tailored to your anatomy, custom earbuds block out the most background noise so you can listen at safer volumes. Custom earbuds also deliver the best sound quality.


Educate children and teenagers. Most have no idea that once hearing damage happens, it's irreversible. It's important to prevent hearing loss from occurring in the first place.

Tip! Did you know that the longer hearing loss goes unrecognized and untreated, the faster it may progress?

Want to give your hearing health a quick check up?

Take a free online hearing test