The move from vinyl to personal music players, whether walkmans to the iPods that we have now, stirs some musical debate as to what is the proper way to listen to music; which gives us the most benefit as a consumer and which allows us to pick up the richest sound which the artist meant to deliver when producing the record. However, we sometimes forget that in essence we are blasting loud noises directly into our ear drums when listening through ear buds or headsets. For those of us who work in jobs which require headsets, like in retail, security, telemarketing (just to name a few industries or occupations) that is a lot of time with stuff in our ears, which surely can’t be healthy. 

We are certainly more “plugged in” than we once were, say fifteen years ago; a fact which has its own social discussion points, but also health and safety problems. With music players getting smaller and becoming integrated with other devices like our phones, we are more likely to have things in our ears whenever and in more situations, like travelling. Bluetooth and speaking to people through headsets also creates a mental distraction and some find it difficult to multi-task and pay attention where they should. This can be dangerous when outside, if we are not fully aware of our surroundings and in our own worlds, listening to music. For instance, if someone shouts to us to warn us of something we are not aware of, like something falling down, a cyclist or a car speeding around a corner, we wouldn’t realise it. Many safety initiatives now target kids listening to music at crossings because of the amount of accidents that occur in these circumstances. 

Below are a few tips to take on board to ensure your gadgets don’t distract you or get into too much trouble: 

1) Ensure your headphones work properly, and you’re not having to turn them up louder than you should. According to experts, just ten minutes a day of having an iPod up to the full volume can damage hearing. It may very well be worth buying the best set of buds or headphones, and spending that much more, because the cheaper ones tend to require turning the volume up to make up for the poor quality. 

2)Take a break and read more. Many people take headphones with them to keep their minds busy on trips. If you pick something else to distract you, like a magazine or a book, or just the view around you, you’ll save your hearing and find that you’re more social with others. If I’m in a new place I make an effort not to listen to personal music, so I can take in the whole atmosphere and make it a unique experience. 

3) Use speakers when you can. If you’re in the comfort of your home, save your headphones for when you’re in public, or if you’re work allows it, play music at a low level (this will require consulting with your management). 

4) If your headphones do break on one side, fix them yourself or buy new ones; don’t struggle alone with only one side working and turning it up on that side to make up for it. 

5) If you work with headset or earpiece, try to avoid using headphones that day outside of work. Ensure your employer has fully-working equipment. Many industries have very noisy atmospheres, so protecting your hearing with the right equipment is of the utmost importance.

There are ways to clean your ears if you feel like there is a wax build-up that might be causing you to turn up your music louder than you ought to. These consist of home remedies or medical procedures. One way is to pour warm olive oil into the ear canal and keep it in there for two minutes; on gently rubbing the area around the ear (parallel with temple) and then tilting the oil out, any wax should fall out as well.Numerous cinnamon health benefits have been lauded before by many, and this problem is no different; a combination of honey and cinnamon powder (but not cinnamon supplements in capsule form) should be consumed, with half a cup at night, and another half-cup in the morning. A more drastic treatment, though it is by no means considered highly risky, is to have your ears syringed to remove wax that way, though of course this should be carried out by a doctor, and should not be tried at home with a similar tool. Similarly cotton swabs for the ears should not be pushed too far in. 

Paul Ellett has suffered with hearing issues through listening to music for extensive periods of time, and in promoting club nights at university. He has used several of the tips listed above with various levels of success.