Think twice when putting on headphones, says social media expert
Sep 12, 2022 - 02:58 AM
ISTANBUL (AA) – As audio devices, specifically headphones, continue to evolve and become ever more ubiquitous, it is worth remembering how this technology emerged and the potential hazards they pose despite their indispensable place in our daily lives.
The foundations of headphone technology that we use today were laid more than 100 years ago, when Graham Bell invented the telephone, according to social media expert Deniz Unay.
Telephone operators and the US military were among the first to adopt the first examples of earphone designs that we see in almost every area of our lives today, Unay told Anadolu Agency.
Since then, the only thing that has remained unchanged was the purpose of these products, which was to provide the joy and convenience of personal, high-quality sound, according Unay.
International market of headphones
“Wireless transmission, one of the innovations that the developing technology has brought to our lives, has also inevitably led the headphone industry,” according to Unay, who noted that despite this, personal audio has not done away with cables completely.
For both wired and wireless headphones, daily advances in technology have led to new ideas and made it an industry, he said.
The size of this international sector has exceeded $35 billion, Unay said, citing the findings of San Fransisco-based consulting firm Grand View Research.
He underlined that in the next decade, approximately 20% of the world’s population is projected to own at least one set of headphones, while the sector is forecast to expand five times its current size.
Meanwhile, Japanese electronics giant Sony, which has led the audio and video tech industry for many years, now stands eclipsed by brands such as Apple and Bose, he said.
Instead of the low-quality headphones that were given for free with the purchase of a new phone, companies have now started selling earphone models with the promise of higher quality to their users and a stable source of income for themselves, Unay added.
“Recognizing this new source of income, companies have adopted the idea of producing their headphones as perishable and difficult to repair. Thus, headphones have become a more constant and predictable source of income for companies,” he said.
The fact that headphones are so widespread and easily accessible has added different dimensions to the sector. Apart from the music industry, the industry also spans fitness, gaming, cinema, and virtual reality, according to Unay.
“Headphones provide privacy for both phone calls and music listening activities and make our lives easier. This is an undeniable fact,” Unay admitted.
However, he noted, it is fundamentally contrary to the nature of human hearing that sound be sent directly into the ear canal. This raises questions about how healthy the use of headphones is, especially in long-term use.
The intensity of sound is measured in decibels (dB). According to the US’ top health agency, the CDC, loud noises over 120 decibels, about as loud as sirens are when standing next to them, can cause immediate damage to our hearing, said Unay.
Sounds 80 dB and above, meanwhile, are disturbing to humans and cause hearing damage in long-term exposure. While listening to music and making phone calls with headphones, our ears are exposed to a sound intensity of around 80-85 dB, warned Unay.
To compare, the human ear is exposed to a sound of approximately 80 dB when traveling in a vehicle, while motorcycle engines produce around 95 dB of noise, he said.
Household appliances such as vacuum cleaners make about 70 dB of sound. This is above the 60 dB for normal speech, which is not disturbing and does not cause hearing problems, while a whisper is about 30 dB.
Is loud noise harmful to the environment?
Unay underlined that today, many countries are working to reduce urban noise pollution as loud noise can harms natural life, as well as people.
“Animals, like humans, are disturbed by loud noises. For example, mammals such as cats, dogs, and horses are seriously disturbed by sounds of 90 dB and above,” he said.
A study conducted at the University of Maryland found that loud noise and noise pollution has caused hearing problems in some marine creatures, too, Unay noted.
He said that the US Environmental Protection Agency and the UN’s World Health Organization have stated that noises in people’s environment should remain below 70 dB throughout the day.
However, the sound in big cities, such as Istanbul and New York, has been measured to be above 80 dB on average.
Unay pointed out that household appliances such as vacuum cleaners, transportation vehicles such as trains and trucks, and work and construction machinery “contribute to noise pollution in our daily lives.”
“We usually find the solution by wearing headphones and listening to loud music to avoid these noises. In fact, in a way, we’re jumping out of the frying pan into the fire,” he warned.
“Smartphones, which have become an indispensable part of daily life, can measure the dB value we are exposed to instantly. We should pay attention to these values and listen to music at a lower level,” he added.
Noise canceling headphones can be helpful in reducing environmental noises and thus eliminate the need to raise the volume while listening to music.
Unay urged people to seek medical help if they feel anything unusual in their hearing, saying they should also pay attention to ear and headphone hygiene.