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Are AirPods bad for your ears?

Are AirPods bad for your ears?

AirPods are everywhere. With over 100M sold every year, it’s hard to avoid them. Whether you’ve bought AirPods already, or are considering buying yourself a pair, you may have wondered: Are AirPods dangerous for my ears? The answer is yes… but also no. It’s a little more complex than a yes or no answer, so let’s break down everything you need to know about the safety of AirPods.

Understanding decibels

Before we can explain the potential dangers of AirPods, you need to know what decibels (dB) are and how they work. Simply put, decibels are the units used to measure how loud or intense a sound is. Anything over 80 dB can be dangerous depending on how long your ears are exposed to it.

To make it easier, here are some everyday sounds measured in decibels and their potential harm:

Whisper: 20-30 dB – No potential danger for any duration of time.
Normal Conversation: 60 dB – No potential danger for any duration of time.
Lawnmower: 90 dB – Safe for approximately 4 hours before potential hearing damage
Jackhammer: 100 dB – Safe for approximately 15 minutes before potential hearing damage
Jet Plane Takeoff: 120 dB – Safe for approximately 7 seconds before potential hearing damage

Simply put, the louder the sound is, the shorter time your ears can be exposed to it before being at risk of hearing damage. When used at maximum volume, AirPods can exceed 100 dB, which is very dangerous for your hearing.

How to check the decibels on your AirPods

Luckily for you, it is easy to track how loud your AirPods are. The reason this is important is because of the many scenarios AirPods are commonly used in. In loud areas such as public transport, plane rides, mowing the lawn or even sitting at a local cafe, it makes sense to drown out the noise with your AirPods. However, to beat the background noise, you need to increase your audio until it’s louder than your surroundings. So while public transport may only be at 80 dB, to top this you may increase your sound volume to 90 dB.

To ensure you don’t accidentally put your ears at risk, use the following feature to track the decibel levels of your AirPods: Settings > Control Center > Hearing > “Ear” icon. 

This will show your current decibel level, to quickly check how loud your audio is.

Can AirPods Cause Tinnitus?

Yes, there is a known connection between long-term use of AirPods and tinnitus. Tinnitus causes a buzzing, hissing, whooshing or ringing sound in your ears without an external sound source. Tinnitus can be temporary (usually after your ears have experienced a very loud sound), or can be permanent if they are damaged enough without a chance to recover. 

In particular, constant exposure to loud music through AirPods can trigger or worsen tinnitus.

What Can You Do To Prevent It?

Just because AirPods can damage your hearing, doesn’t mean that they will. WIth the right care and protocols, AirPods can be perfectly safe. 

The first and more obvious solution is to avoid your music surpassing 80 dB. This is easier said than done, and may not seem like an option for those who enjoy loud music.

The most common version that we see recommended is the 60/60 rule. Only listen to 60% of the volume for a maximum of 60 minutes at a time. This should keep your ears perfectly safe without having to constantly check your decibel levels or calculating how long you can keep your AirPods in.

The second option is to give your ears an appropriate amount of rest. If you’re surpassing the 80 dB limit, be aware of your safe exposure times, try to stay much below the limit, and take breaks from your AirPods to let your ears rest. 

The third option is to consider choosing over-ear headphones: They typically provide a more effective natural barrier between your ears and loud sounds, potentially making them safer than earbuds. This should still be combined with limited volume and total listening time. 

Additionally, you can try in-ear monitors, which offer a better hearing experience and can protect your ears. You can learn more about ACS in-ear monitors here.