The Orion

To stay plugged in, remove your headphones

Tara Miller

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Tara Miller

Tara Miller

The lack of awareness that comes with wearing headphones can be dangerous. So dangerous that it can lead to serious injury or death.

The fact that listening to music on headphones makes us less attentive to our surroundings makes me think of Pa Houa Lor, who died recently after she was struck by a falling tree branch.

It’s impossible to say whether she had time to react after the branch started to fall, but if she hadn’t been wearing headphones, she might have gotten an extra split second to move out of the way after she heard the branch snap off.

But because she had headphones in, she might have been deprived of that crucial reaction time.

For most people, the stakes aren’t as high as life or death, but Lor’s passing is a somber reminder that our surroundings are unpredictable.

Almost everywhere I go, I see at least one person my age listening to music with headphones, and almost every single time I can hear the music they have playing.

It makes me wonder if they realize that their music is so loud that others can understand the lyrics. It also makes me wonder if they realize that they are damaging their hearing and putting themselves at risk.

Illustration by Liz Coffee

Illustration by Liz Coffee

I’ve almost been hit by cars because I was paying attention to my music rather than what was going on around me. I’ve learned to be more aware, and I don’t listen to headphones unless I’m at home or somewhere where I won’t be walking around outside.

In addition to lowering your awareness, listening to music at a high volume for a prolonged period of time can lead to permanent hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. This has grim implications when you consider it in conjunction with the fact that one-third of college students reported occasionally turning their portable music players up to full volume in 2010, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

This just goes to show that listening to music at high volumes is detrimental. But no matter what studies tell us, we still listen to music at deafening volumes regardless of how it’ll affect our hearing. Let’s face it: some of us are going to lose our hearing at some point later in life. However, wearing headphones and listening to music for a long period of time can affect how quickly that happens.

Not only does wearing headphones affect hearing, but it also changes how we think, a factor which can have serious repercussions when we sit down to study.

Headphones have direct access to the brain because they cover our ears and blot out every other noise.

This can interfere with learning, especially if the material is new and difficult, according to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Advising and Learning Assistance Center.

Studying with headphones may help some people learn. But according to this study, those people are in the minority.

Why not unplug your iPod until you’re done with that chemistry homework, or remove your earbuds when you go for a walk outside?

Headphones help you immerse yourself in your own world, but sometimes you need to be immersed in the world around you.

 

Tara Miller can be reached at [email protected] or @chicojournalist on Twitter.

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