How harmful are headphones?
2 separate thoughts occurred to me recently. I’d like to share them with you.
The first is that more and more I see people wearing headphones rather than earphones. While earphones imply “leave me alone I’m busy” headphones really convey the message that “I am otherwise engaged”. Really they look like ear muffs used as hearing protection. What could be more clear than someone wearing hearing protection that tells you they’d rather not talk to you.
The other information comes from a study done for the U.S. Military by Dr. John Casali at Virginia Tech and Etymotic Research. In that study, which looked a spatial acuity of people wearing hearing protection it was discovered that covering the pinnae of the ear greatly reduces the wearers ability to determine where sounds were coming from. In fact the front to rear determination was particularly poor. This study was done using ear muffs not headphones in that no sound was coming from inside the ear cups. Read Study.
Headphones by design
What has one to do with the other? Headphones, by design, cover the pinnae of the ear. Headphone wearers are therefore significantly impaired when it comes to determining where sounds outside their headphones are coming from. Walking down the street with you music playing inside your headphones you are unable to determine where a car horn or person warning you of danger is coming from.
How long will it be before someone is injured wearing their headphones?