Safety of In-Ear Headphones

Written by john shelley
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Safety of In-Ear Headphones
There are safety concerns connected to in-ear headphones. (headphones image by Svetlana Kashkina from

In-ear headphones are headphones that are worn in the ear canal; for this reason, they are sometimes referred to as canal headphones. Generic in-ear headphones that fit into any ear are available, as are more expensive in-ear headphones that are made to order. Safety concerns related to canal headphones are that they can cause too much sound pressure or physically harm the inside of the ear. There are also worries that go with blocking out ambient sound.


The theory behind in-ear headphones is that if the ear is sealed, no ambient noise can interfere with the music. They were invented not only because surrounding noise can make the music less enjoyable, but for safety. If the surrounding noise is blocked out, the reasoning goes, music would not have to be listened to at a volume that can damage eardrums.

Sound Pressure

One of the biggest safety complains levelled at in-ear headphones is that the pressure they create in the ear can be damaging to the eardrum. Sound pressure is the physical pressure that sound waves create. People experience sound pressure every day when they listen to anything. However, too much sound pressure can be harmful, and at its highest it can burst eardrums.

Safety of In-Ear Headphones
Sound pressure is the manifestation of a sound wave. (waveform 20 image by chrisharvey from

Physical Interference

There are fears that putting anything too deeply into an ear canal can harm it. These safety concerns go with anything that is put inside an ear, from cotton swabs to canal headphones. In order to be safe when using in-ear headphones, be sure to not force the headphone into your ear. Only wear them if it is comfortable; if any pain or discomfort occurs, consult a doctor.

Blocking Ambient Noise

Not being able to hear what is going on around you is also dangerous. Many people listen to music on in-ear headphones while walking, which can be unsafe. If you are unaware of what's going on around you, in-ear headphones are more likely to be harmful; the dangers range from walking into people to being hit by a car.

In-Ear Headphones vs. Bud Headphones

In-ear headphones are often confused with bud headphones, which are similar. Bud headphones sit inside the ear, but are not fitted to create a seal and block ambient noise. This means that bud headphones often need to be listened to at a higher volume, increasing risk of ear damage.

Safety of In-Ear Headphones
Headphones for iPods are an example of bud headphones. (ear buds image by Darrell Sharpe from

How to Stay Safe

Common sense should be utilised when dealing with anything potentially dangerous. Be sure not to play music too loudly for prolonged periods of time. If at any point the headphones feel uncomfortable, stop using them and consult a physician. Also, make sure to take extra care when listening to in-ear headphones in a place that you would usually use your ears--on the street, for instance.

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