Hearing Loss and Cell Phones

While hearing technology is getting smarter and is synching with smartphones in particular, the burning question is whether smartphone usage is actually having a negative impact on your hearing? Researchers at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, claim that it does.

They studied the impact of electromagnetic waves (emitted from mobile phones) on the central auditory pathway and the inner ear. They compared the hearing function of 125 people who had been regular cell phone users for at least one year with the hearing function of 58 people who had never used cell phones. The results showed that long-term cell phone users had significantly more hearing loss than non-cell phone users.

However, it’s important to note that the actual cell phone (or emitting electromagnetic waves) is not the real culprit here, more the wearing of ear buds that tends to accompany cell phone usage, especially with today’s smartphones that double up as personal listening devices. While electromagnetic waves undoubtedly have some impact on a person’s hearing, this impact is small in comparison to the significant impact of loud noise. The World Health Organization estimates more than one billion young people are at risk of permanent hearing loss, simply from listening to music that is too loud.

Part of the problem with headphones is that the lower quality products encourage “volume creep”. They do not effectively shut out environmental noise, so the user feels the need to increase the volume to be able to hear properly.

Professionals recommend investing in high quality headphones or earbuds that transmit low-frequency bass more effectively than some of the lower quality products on the market. Noise cancelling headphones are also a good idea. These types of headphones better manage external noise, reducing the need for you to increase the volume. Regardless of which type of earbud or headphone you use, volume levels should always stay below 50% and if someone sitting beside you can hear your music, it’s too loud.