It is not uncommon to see people completely in their own world while on a bus or train, headphones blaring away to the iPods in their pockets. Headphones are an easy solution to combat boredom while commuting, to tune away from an irritating roommate, or to listen to music at ‘acceptable’ levels without bugging parents and neighbors. An upbeat play list makes a good exercise buddy and MP3 players are highly popular gifts. But, how many of us are aware of the hidden dangers behind headphone use?
Ear care is not as heavily endorsed as other healthcare issues. But, our eardrums are sensitive items and cannot be replaced. They deserve more attention than what they’re currently getting. This gets more apt as more youth start carrying their music around with them.
One obvious and highly popularized danger is related to the volume of playing. Listening at high volumes is sometimes a necessity when in public or crowded places so that one can actually hear the music over the background noise. You also enjoy some types of music more when played at high levels. However, listening to music for long periods of time at high volumes causes hearing loss to varying degrees.
The use of headphones also decreases your awareness of surroundings. This is important especially when out on the roads. Besides being an obvious hazard while driving, it also causes the listener to lose situational awareness. This can have disastrous consequences if the user is on a train, bus or even simply walking around in public. Several Indian metros have been declared as unsafe on a regular basis. Chances of mugging or pick pocketing increase significantly when the victim pays scant regard to his surroundings.
Prolonged use of headphones is linked to increase in the amount of earwax buildup. Ears have a mechanism for expelling wax naturally through jaw movement. But, earwax builds up when the ear canal is blocked by earphones and then gets difficult to remove.
Even a minor change in music habits could make a world of difference. Reducing the duration of use is one obvious measure. Turning the volume down reduces much of the harm caused. It also increases your awareness of the surroundings. And what we could really use is a headset that fulfills its function without any cost to our eardrums.
While many of us are not at all ready to give up our mode of listening to music, are we willing to give up one of our senses instead? It is not too much to practice a little restraint and caution. At any rate, the end result is worth the effort.
The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.