The end of headphones - Tinnitus and portable listening

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Ghostworld, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I have a long history of exposure to loud music. I was a concert photographer when I was a kid and then I went on the be in a garage band, of course there's the whole audiophile thing, too.

    The first time I hurt my ears was 1985. I was mixing some of our band's stuff and overdid the volume with headphones. Ears rang all night and hurt like hell for a couple days. Loud noise and, interestingly, talking on the telephone hurt. I treasure my music, so I took it easy after that and they made a full recovery. Never had a problem.

    About 20 year years later I got seriously into headphone. Cans, amps, devices. The whole thing. After about two years of this my ears started hurting. I didn't heed the warning and kept listening and woke up with earache and tinnitus. I tried every trick to get rid of it, some were sort of helpful, but the tinnitus nearly drove me mad. Finally, after a year, it passed. I can hear it flair up if I listen at loud levels, I mean pretty loud, so I stopped th at. I'm fine at most movies and my hearing is fine. It's been 12 years since I hurt them.

    About three years ago, I got hungry for some new headphones. I bought some Sennheiser over the ear Momentums. After about a week, my tinntus was bad. I took it as a warning sign and sold them.

    This Christmas I got a pair of little Senns for Xmas. I was happy. I love portable audio. I put on the Senns and listened to one album at a reasonable level. My tinnitus was IMMEDIATELY SCREAMING.

    I guess I'm completely done with headphone.s I gave away those new Senns. I am in agreement with Pete Townshend that headphones are a HUGE culprit in tinnitus. All windmilling in front of stack and he blames headphones? I think he's right.

    I listen to music all the time on my home stereo at a good volume. No problems at all.

    I put on headphones are a reasonable level for 40 minutes -- a sea of tinnitus sudden rages.

    Just a reminder if your a headphone user. If you ever feel the slightest discomfort, put them away for a few weeks. Me? I'm done with headphones and hope to have many more happy listening years with loudspeakers.
  2. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident

    I love using my inexpensive headphones.

    But everything in moderation.

    (If only I could remember this...)

    I think sometimes trouble with one's teeth...translates to ear issues.

    I'm having a crown completed on a tooth.

    And now understand why my ear has been hurting at times...[​IMG]
    Musical Maxis and The FRiNgE like this.
  3. jkauff

    jkauff Putin-funded Forum Troll

    Akron, OH
    Anything that gets too close to the fragile parts of your ears is dangerous. It amazes me that people still clean their ears with Q-tips after years of ENT doctors' warnings.

    The outer parts of your ear deflect a certain amount of sound, limiting what reaches the eardrum. With headphones (or IEMs) very little gets deflected and the eardrum is directly exposed.

    I don't know of any studies to back it up, but in my experience the ears also develop a tolerance level for loud sounds so you have to increase the volume to get the same "feel". More damage results.

    I have mild tinnitus, most of which I attribute to working for a loud rock band for a number of years. Headphones don't aggravate the condition--so far--but even so I always start my listening at low volume levels. I find my ears adjust in time, and loud passages eventually sound just fine at much lower levels than when I would crank up the volume from the beginning.

    I can imagine life without my other senses, but not without my hearing. The older I get, the more precious it becomes. Wish I'd taken better care of my ears in my younger days.

    LARGERTHAN Forum Resident

    I find something rolled-off/ tonally darker more agreeable when it comes to headphones - something like a 650 or old LCD2 (perhaps the new 2c). I've got some low level tinnitus in my left ear, and now am (too late, I'm sorry to say) fiercely protective of them. On the whole, loudspeakers are more agreeable however.

    LARGERTHAN Forum Resident

  6. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 A force of nature

    Sorry for your troubles. Headphones are dangerous as is most quality equipment. Audiophile superlatives aside, the biggest difference with good gear is that it stays clean at higher volumes. Back and in the day when we were buying equipment at department stores, we generally had the good sense to turn it down when it started to sound ugly and that was 80 to 90db. A good set of cans today can get to 120db and stay clean, no ones hearing is going to survive that.

    I don’t know if it’s years of exposure or just getting older but my tolorence is way down where I never thought of it before. Music isn’t my issue but running power tools for very long gives me some problems. I keep earplugs in the garage and take them to concerts.

    If I would have known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.
  7. DrZhivago

    DrZhivago Hedonist

    Adelaide Australia
    Thanks to OP for bringing up this topic.

    I discontinued the use of in-ear type headphones after years of use, after I had realised how much damage they are doing to my hearing(ears).

    I am not sure if anyone else experienced this, but after prolonged listening of in-ears I would lose the ability to detect the direction of the sound. Example. I would hear the noise and would think it’s coming from the left but it would actually come from the opposite direction! I also started getting ear infections and the prolonged ringing in one of my ears.

    After I had stopped using in-ear headphones most of the issues went away.

    These days it’s only on ears type at lower volume for an hour a day.

    Kind Regards
  8. dougotte

    dougotte Vague Waste of Space-Time

    Washington, DC
    I too attended loud concerts in my younger years, but in moderation, I think.

    Last year, I went to an audiologist. I hadn't had my hearing checked since I was a teenager. She said I have some HF loss (didn't notice the exact Hz, but I think it dropped off significantly above 8500Hz), but I'm in pretty good shape for my age (59). When my GP saw the results later, he said he thought I'm in better shape than most men my age.

    When I complained of mild tinnitus, she said the brain/nerves compensate for the lost frequencies by producing the tinnitus whistle. Does that make sense? My tinnitus is very mild. Most of the time, I don't even notice it. During hayfever season, although I'm not overly allergic, it seems to increase.

    I don't use in-ear headphones, and only use over-ear phones for about an hour once a week. I never notice any issues after using them, so although I was afraid I'm cranking them too much, maybe I'm not.
    Joy-of-radio likes this.
  9. Joel1963

    Joel1963 Forum Resident

    When I was in Florida, I got Bose Soundwear, which you wear on your shoulder, from where the sound radiates upwards. I love the sound of it, but I wonder if it's beneficial to preventing hearing loss.
  10. aoxomoxoa

    aoxomoxoa Down by the old mainstream

    After years of playing in bands, I had it bad. I stopped 10 years ago and now it doesn’t bother me much anymore. I think it’s actually gotten better. So take care of your hearing. It will improve in time
    AcidPunk15 likes this.
  11. chacha

    chacha Forum Resident

    mill valley CA USA
    I can’t use headphones and only put them on when absolutely necessary. I’ve been playing in a loud band professionally for 35 years and have tinnitus that I’ve learned to manage. Headphones exacerbates it terribly.
    If you think about it, they are a speaker right next to your ear. That’s way too close for me.
    AcidPunk15 and Ghostworld like this.
  12. MichaelXX2

    MichaelXX2 Forum Resident

    United States
    I gave up headphones because the pressure on my head was too much. After years of grappling with terrible room acoustics, I began to despise my inability to wear headphones. Suddenly I don't feel so bad about it.

    It sure seems like the +/- 15dB frequency response of the average room would cause more damage than a pretty much flat headphone would, with no flutter echo or ringing or wild frequency variations. Apparently there's something so fundamentally dangerous about headphones that they outweigh even loud-ass speakers like mine.

  13. 4011021

    4011021 Forum Resident

    Also with the neck, shoulders and top of back.
    DRM likes this.

    LARGERTHAN Forum Resident

    I can't imagine headphones are inherently dangerous. The problem is there's no certain way to determine what db you are listening at, particularly given the variability in impedance etc. Over this side of the pond, the EU has ensured that your phone gives a warning once you cross a certain threshold on the volume gain - nice idea, but ineffective when it comes to real world use given it's likely only of use for earbuds.

    Best practice is likely to have your headphones at sensible level, then take them down a notch from there.
    Soundgarden, AcidPunk15 and PhilBiker like this.
  15. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker member number 666

    Northern VA, USA
    Headphones and in-ears exacerbate my tinnitus also. When I listen through these kinds of devices I use very very low levels. I used to listen to music on a portable CD player at work a lot and for most mastering anything past the second bar of volume was too much. I usually listened at the first bar past 0. I found that once I let my ears get used to listening at such quiet levels they could easily handle it and I could hear all the nuance I needed to enjoy the music. The speaker is right next to or in your ear, it doesn't need to be loud. I still listen to music in headphones and in-ears at very low levels, but I greatly prefer speakers.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
  16. The Wilderbeest

    The Wilderbeest Well-Known Member

    Inverkip, Scotland
    I was a Sonar Operator in the British Royal a boy sailor, we would have received a sound beating if we were caught using
    cotton buds/ Q-tips, or anything else near one's ear-holes!! :)
    kBear likes this.
  17. DRM

    DRM Forum Resident


    I realize that loud music, in and of itself, can hurt one's ears...and headphones can deliver loud music at close range.

    But sometimes moderately loud music with headphones might not be too bad...if there wasn't something else going on with one's addition to any lingering damage to the ear directly caused by loud music/loud sounds.

    Trouble with a tooth or teeth may sound farfetched...when it comes to ringing and painful ears...but if you're already vulnerable to ear issues due to loud music...any trouble with a tooth can exacerbate it.

    And make loud music even more painful or problematic.
  18. Tony Plachy

    Tony Plachy Forum Resident

    Pleasantville, NY
    I too have tinnitus, even though I have never really abused my hearing that much. I have been told that my tinnitus is due to normal ( for males) age related high frequency hearing loss. While my tinnitus is always there it usually does not bother me. The thing that aggravates my tinnitus is having a head cold which unfortunately I can not take off (as you can with headphones) and I am recovering from one right now. :sigh: I have always found in ear headphones irritating in a number of ways and I while I do not use headphones a lot, when I do use them I use open back over the ear headphones which do not seem to irritate my tinnitus. What I like about them is there is no pressure build up which might help you and your problems with using headphones.
    DRM likes this.
  19. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    I think that this is an excellent statement.

    When listening naturally, how much sound actually gets to your eardrum?

    With IEM's that sound is funneled directly down the ear canal and directly at your eardrum, like an audio laser. You eardrum gets the whole enchilada.

    I'm an advocate of no more than 85-dB during an eight hour period, 88-dB over 4-hours and 91-dB over 2-hrs.

    In another but similar thread with regard to sound pressure levels, one of our members commented, that 90-dB is not painful, but it will cause permanent hearing damage.

    This is a simple statement, yet it says a lot. In fact, it says everything!

    I can easily sit on my sofa and take average measurements of SPL's with the dB meter. But, I cannot take those same measurements, on the inside of my ears while wearing IEM's.

    One way, I can measurably tell if I am safe, and the other way, not at all. Which way is the preferable way to listen, from a more educated standpoint?

    While I don't think that I have ever played either pair of my IEM's that oud or that long, I doubt if the general public is educated enough to adequately protect their ears while wearing IEM's, earbuds or whatever.

    As human's, we have a couple of natural defenses to sound exposure, within the inner ear, but as we age, these become less and less effective (like everything else :)).

    What you are referencing is hearing fatigue. as your ears tire, you keep reaching for the volume button. until, you realize just how loud you are listening to your music, then it suddenly occurs to you to turn the volume down a notch or two. Then you still find it loud, because your ears have gotten to the point where they just can't take it any more, and you turn down the volume a few more notches... and finally, everything sound good again.

    By this time, you discover how loud you have been listening.

    I see people walking around all day, with these things in their ears. How loud are they listening? No way to say. But as the saying goes, "may the odds be forever in your favor". I think this saying applies here.

    People are listening to music through some kind of earpiece too loud and for too long at at time. One day, it will surely take it's toll.
    billnunan and PhilBiker like this.
  20. fogalu

    fogalu Forum Resident

    Killarney, Ireland
    I'm in my early 70s and I have low level tinnitus. When I first became conscious of it - about two years ago - I started obsessing about it. This phase lasted about six months and then I forgot about it. But I take a few precautions - like sticking cotton wool in my ears when I use the lawnmower - and keeping my headphone listening to a reasonable volume level.

    However, I can't enjoy going to the cinema any more because the sound levels are horrendous, but thanks to larger TV screens, high definition and Blu Ray, I don't really need the cinema. The last time I went there, I found myself reaching for the pause button and the volume control!
    PhilBiker and SandAndGlass like this.
  21. AcidPunk15

    AcidPunk15 Forum Resident

    Austin TX
    I have a treatment for your tinnitus I had the same problem ringing like crazy and a significant amount of pain. I was at a noise-rock concert in Brooklyn and I stood in front of a giant Speaker for 1H 30 min. I mean the speaker was the size of 60 inch tv from the 90s. My ears were ringing for a whole week. They use to bleed when I went on airplanes. The Doctors told me it would be like this forever and offered me anti-depressants. After I used (And still till this day, I use it, I just put a couple of drops in my ears as I am typing this) I have been using colloidal silver for months. I bought ( Sovereign Silver 80z Collidal Silver from Whole Foods)

    It is amazing don't believe the propaganda you will read online it is known as a natural remedy people have been silver for 1000s of years. Also you could try stem cell. its article from Standard University Medical Center about the promising regrowth of up 2,000 hairs in your ear. (The hairs are what allow you to hear. Seriously try the Sovereign Silver people on this forum will say Im crazy but it has worked for me. Oh and that idiot that turned blue from colloidal silver didn't use 20ppm he made his own batch that was a high concentration and this caused him to turn blue.

    If I Blast music on full volume for like 2 hours at night I will hear a tiny rining but if I put the colloidal silver I hear nothing. My Ears will continue to improve also if you can afford it get stem cell therapy.

    If you eliminate your ears they should repair naturally if you are healthy. But since you are old it might just reduce the tinnitus
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
    pblmow likes this.
  22. Joy-of-radio

    Joy-of-radio Forum Resident

    I've frequently warn others about the dangers of listening at excessive volumes. It's very dangerous! Furthermore, damage to ears can occur along with tinnitus and discomfort symptoms that may go away for a while only to recur years later. I know this firsthand. Everyone should start their listening sessions with the volume near zero and only increase it to the point where details in the audio are clearly heard.

    I listen via headphones, but I apply the aforementioned practices. Sadly, many youngsters think they're invincible and know everything! I surely thought I did decades ago.
    aoxomoxoa likes this.
  23. The Pinhead


    Headphones give me tinnitus even at low volumes. Hate them.
  24. Joy-of-radio

    Joy-of-radio Forum Resident

    If that happens as opposed to listening via loudspeakers, the pressure/clamping or weight of the headphones may be contributing to your symptoms. I must have my headphones lightweight and they mustn't grip my head like a vice. GRADO headphones look big and heavy, but most are very lightweight being made mostly of plastic. I prefer open-back as opposed to closed, though I own both. I cannot stand active noise-cancelling headphones!
  25. Clonesteak

    Clonesteak Forum Resident

    Kalamazoo, MI
    I used to listen to ear buds for about a two year period 8 years ago and have suffered since. I blame the volume of music played with ear buds is to blame. I feel if I listened to music via over the ear headphones at the same volume my ears would not have suffered the same trauma. Since I have not listened to ear buds my right ear especially has not been as bad. I listen to my music via over the ear headphones at a lower volume than I normally would. I listen to headphones less and rather listen to speakers.
    Since my ears suffered from ear buds at higher volumes and concerts I am less likely to go to concerts and 3D Imax theaters as much as I want too.
    Warning to others: Don't play music very loud via headphones. Keep ones hearing.
    Joy-of-radio and snowman872 like this.

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