What you're doing on airplanes that can hurt your hearing

HOUSTON – Frequent flyers may be at risk of damaging their hearing on board airplanes.

“What you're more worried about is either if you're flying for long distances, frequently, so it's a cumulative effect, the more noise you have the less time you can be in it and then each dose you have adds on to the next dose,” UT Health audiologist Caryn McLellan explained. “The likelihood that you'll develop hearing loss grows with every exposure that you have.”

She said pilots and flight attendants are more likely to suffer hearing loss from the plane noise alone, but casual flyers are hurting their hearing with onboard activities.

Listening to music and watching movies with earbuds at a loud volume puts you at risk for hearing loss, McLellan said.

“You put in earbuds ... and turn it all the way, as loud as it will go because you can't hear over the noise,” she said. “If you're trying to listen to your earbuds it's not covering up the background noise, it's adding to it and you're getting yourself more noise instead of less.”

McLellan said 100 decibels for 15 minutes can damage your hearing. Loud music on top of a loud environment can reach that high volume. It’s not that difficult to measure decibels either, free phone apps work well at calculating the volume of your music, movies and environment.

“We really shouldn't be turning our volume control up more than halfway and we shouldn't really be listening to them for more than 2 hours,” McLellan emphasized.

Noise-canceling headphones that cover your entire ear are the best option for flyers to drown the airplane sound and keep the volume at a healthy level.