Considering the fact that few individuals know how utilize headphone or ear buds properly, and the fact that many do not stray from the cheap units that are shipped with the players, this topic becomes a more pertinent issue since the majority of the population uses a portable MP3 player. While headphones and ear buds have the capacity to damage your hearing, it is not a guarantee that it will happen just because you are using them. In my opinion, it is more important to consider how they are being used. From what I understand, if you are able to hear the music while an individual is wearing them, then they are playing their music too loud. This is even more important when you consider ear buds since they sit closer to the eardrum than traditional headphones do. OSHA believes that the louder the sound (in terms of decibels), the quicker it is for damage to occur, which is a logical statement. Another thing to keep in mind is that typical exposures may not long enough to cause immediate damage. Furthermore, bear in mind that it is considered that the harmful effects could be accumulative over time from prolonged exposure.
Think about the following when comparing headphones to traditional speakers being played back at equal volume levels. Typically, sound has to travel several feet before it reaches your ears, and by the time that it occurs, the air (diffused if you will) will absorb a portion of sound. On the other hand, because the headphones are directly next to the ear opening (or directly in the ear canal if ear buds), the sound does not have a chance to be absorbed, and your ears will feel the full effects of the decibel levels that are being produced.
Finally, consider when you are exercising while using these devices (as many individuals with MP3 devices do) that blood will travel away from your ears down towards the limbs that are in motion. Doing so, causes the ears to lose protection, and can almost double the risk of hearing loss when listening to music at a loud volume levels.
Symptoms of hearing loss can include the following:
-A ringing/buzzing sensation in the ears.
-Difficulty in understanding speech (in general, noisy places, or places with poor acoustics).
-Acute muffling of sounds
-Inability to distinguish tones at lower decibel levels.
It is important to remember that even though you may experience these symptoms after being exposed to loud decibel levels for a temporary period of time, they can become permanent if you have prolonged exposure.