Headphones Lab is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Will Headphones Make You Deaf?

Will Headphones Make You Deaf?


Headphones are very useful for listening to music in many different situations. Besides your favorite tunes, you can also listen to the audio recordings you like without disturbing or letting anyone around you know what you’re up to.

Yes, headphones can cause a permanent hearing loss, meaning that you might go deaf, however, it only applies to the improper use of the headphones. If you stay away from the improper use of headphones, you will be fine. But have you ever wondered whether there is a difference in in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear headphones when it comes to the affecting your hearing? Stay tuned and find out a lot more about it. It’s better to stay safe than to be sorry afterward.

In-Ear Headphones

Doctors are very concerned about in-ear headphones when it comes to music playing, over any other type of headphones. In-ear headphones are the most dangerous type of headphones for your ears and have more effect on hearing loss than other headphone types. The reason for that is simple to understand. The closer your headphones are to your ear, the more damage they can do. In-ear headphones are the closest type of headphones that you can possibly use for your ears. Of course, there are many other factors that can affect your hearing loss progress other than headphone type, such as volume, bass, duration.

In-ear headphones place the sound very close to the eardrum, and therefore, they’re one of the most dangerous types of headphones to wear if you enjoy listening to music at a slightly higher volume. Hearing loss due to headphones is approximately 30 perfect higher than ever before. The reason for that is also very self-explanatory. Before, people used to have WalkMan’s which would come with on-ear headphones. At high volume, the sound would become distorted and unenjoyable. Nowadays, smartphone devices can play sounds very loud without any quality loss, and at full volume, such device that plays music through in-ear headphones can produce as much noise as a live rock concert usually does.

When people are found in a crowded ambient, or on the streets which are noisy, they tend to turn up the volume. But no matter how loud the ambient or surroundings are, you will still do the same damage to your hearing and eardrums without even knowing it. That’s why in-ear headphones are the most dangerous type of headphones as they play the sound too close to the eardrums, they filter less ambient noise and can produce the higher decibels sounds.

Over-Ear Headphones

On the other hand, over-ear headphones are far better than in-ear headphones for many reasons. Over-ear headphones are actually the safest type of headphones that you could use to prevent damaging your hearing and causing hearing loss.

Over-ear headphones tend to filter and even eliminate the surrounding noise way better than in-ear and on-ear headphones. Therefore, people don’t feel the need to play music at very high volumes when they’re in the loud ambients such as public facilities. They also don’t play the sound too close to the eardrum, but they’re still pretty close. While over-ear headphones are safer than other headphone types, they still can contribute to hearing loss. Especially because most of the time they offer a lot more bass and higher audio quality.

Therefore, they should be used with precautions, just like any headphones. If you’re using over-ear headphones, you have chosen the safest headphone type, but still, pay attention. You shouldn’t play music for longer than 60 minutes through your on-ear headphones, and you shouldn’t play the music higher than 60% of volume. If you have to use the headphones for longer than an hour, placing cotton balls inside your ears can make a big difference. They will avoid the exposure to loud noise, but don’t expect them to do all the work. You will still have to pay attention to the volume. Don’t go overboard.

Effects of hearing loss sometimes can show up after many hours, days, or even months without you even noticing it. The worst thing is that you will notice the eardrums damage after the damage has been already done, so that’s why such precautions are necessary.

On-Ear Headphones

I like to place on-ear headphones in the middle, right between the in-ear and over-ear headphones. Since in-ear headphones are the most dangerous type of headphones, and over-ear headphones are so far the safest. On-ear headphones are very similar to the over-ear headphones. However, they’re not really good at eliminating the surrounding noise like over-ear headphones are.

They can also make your ears uncomfortable or even numb after a long use, which is also something to consider. Therefore, instead of sticking to the 60-rule we mentioned previously in the over-ear headphones, you will have to stick to the 50-rule. This tipe of headphones should not be used for longer than 50 minutes, and at a higher volume than 50%.

Cotton balls are a great addition to on-ear headphones especially because they don’t block the surrounding noise as good and people tend to play the music very loud. If you can’t get a good pair of noise-canceling over-ear headphones, on-ear headphones will definitely do the job if you’re careful with the volume button. For sure, they’re far better and safer than in-ear headphones.

I’d recommend you to stay away from in-ear headphones as much as you can. In case you’re using them, don’t use them for over a longer period of time, and definitely, never play the music at high volume.

Using Headphones the Right Way

Using headphones the right way will definitely play in your favor. You will prevent the risk of hearing loss and prevent damaging your eardrums. The right way would mean that you are aware of how long and often do you use your headphones, but also the volume and types of sound you listen to.

There’s also a big difference in the type of headphones you’re wearing. As mentioned earlier, the in-ear headphones are the most dangerous type of headphones since they put the sound waves closest to the eardrums. Therefore, you should really be cautious when using in-ear headphones. On the other hand, over-ear headphones are the safest type of headphones, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to the volume.

On average, you shouldn’t wear your headphones for longer than an hour, and you shouldn’t play the music louder than 50-60% of volume. That way, you will be on a safe side and you will prevent damaging your ears and hearing. Also, if you find yourself in a crowded places space such as subway or streets with a lot of traffic, I wouldn’t recommend you to raise the volume of your music as it can have the same effect on your hearing loss. The best option is to give yourself a break and listen to some music later when you’re in a quieter place. That will help you prevent the harmful effects of high volume sounds close to your ear.

Is Bass Boost Technology Harmful?

Bass boost technology is a really nice feature for the bass lovers out there, but it should be used with precautions. The technology itself isn’t very harmful to our ears, but it might be, depending on the way we use it. Boosting a certain frequency is proven that it’s not harmful at all. The damage itself won’t come from a bass boost.

However, the hearing damage happens from listening to the same frequencies at high volume, which will also increase the harmful side of bass together with the volume. As long as you aren’t getting any distortion through your headphones as you have your bass boosted, you don’t have anything to worry about. But also, always pay attention to the volume.

Me personally, I’d recommend you to stick with around 40% of volume when you use the bass boost technology, just to be sure. There are some sound effects that can definitely be harmful to your ears, and bass boost technology will just help the damage. You could also consider the bass headphones with the bass boost on-off button. This future will definitely help you when your ears get tired from a punchy bass.

So the good thing is that the bass technology isn’t harmful and you can definitely enjoy it, but pay attention to the volume and make sure that there is no distortion in your headphones. There is an interesting article written by  US National Library of Medicine Decibel Hell: The Effects of Living in a Noisy World, where they talk about the effects of living in a noisy world, but also including the effects of some high sound effects which are very common in a dubstep music. Do yourself a favor and read the article.

Can Noise Canceling Headphones Prevent Hear Loss?

Most of the over-ear headphones have some sort of noise canceling. While some brands really focus on the noise canceling feature, even the headphones that don’t have any special noise canceling feature will definitely cancel noise better than on-ear or in-ear headphones.

Noise canceling headphones might help to a certain degree, but you shouldn’t expect them to save you from a hear loss and hear damage. Since noise canceling headphones are good at canceling outside noise, they’re very good for crowded places such as airports. They will help you to listen to your music without having to raise the volume in hope to hear the music better over the noise. However, if you decide to crank up the volume, you will get the same hear loss damage and effects, just like with any other headphones.

On the other hand, if you’re using noise canceling headphones for blocking outside noise such as loud airplane noise, high-tech rotatory tools, and others, they will be able to prevent hearing loss. They will block the high dB sounds and protect your ears that way. But they can’t help if you decide to play music at a high volume close to your ears. Even although you might not feel any symptoms, the damage will happen and you will notice it when it’s too late to prevent it. That’s the worst thing about hearing loss and eardrums damage.

Signs You May Have Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the U.S. and your ears shouldn’t be taken for granted. The hearing loss and damage happens without any symptoms at first, until the damage is already done. Signs that might point to hearing loss are usually slowly progressing. The first sign you would notice is during the one-on-one conversations with a background noise. You will start having trouble catching some words. However, one-on-one conversations without any background noise still won’t be a problem.

At first, you might not notice or you might even ignore the first signs. However, when those signs become pronounced, over time, the sounds will become muffled or distorted. Then, you will start having troubles understanding other people and having one-on-one conversations.

If you even suspect a little bit that you have the first signs of hearing loss, you should visit your doctor immediately and get your hearing checked. It’s better to prevent it than to regret it afterward. You don’t want to postpone visiting a doctor. If you ignore the first signs, and your hearing gets worse, the damage might be definitely bigger. The longer you wait, there is more chance that your hearing loss damage becomes permanent.

On the other hand, it’s most likely that you’ve experienced a ringing and buzzing sound in ears, for example, after visiting a nightclub. It’s the type of temporary hearing damage that will subside over time and disappear 16 to 48 hours later. If it doesn’t, you should visit a doctor as well.

Share this article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

There is more to read