Earbuds are blossoming into a major market for “hearables.” New devices provide the best sounding music and audio with all the benefits of a smartwatch. But can better earbuds lead to a better life? You bet … if they help prevent hearing loss.

Earbuds and Hearing Health in the News

I’m thrilled by recent attention and media coverage around hearing health. A big shout out to CES (Consumer Electronics Show) for providing a platform and megaphone so more people hear about the latest technology.

Likewise, I thank the New York Times for Jane Brody’s recent excellent article, “For Better Brain Health, Preserve Your Hearing.” The more media attention, the more people who learn that better hearing contributes to brain health and therefore benefits overall health and wellness.

Hearing and Your Brain

When the brain works hard trying to help you hear, its capacity for other tasks is diminished. A recent study from the National Institutes of Health details the negative effect even a small hearing loss can have on cognition.

Noise exposure is like dust; it piles up over time. Ever been to a concert and then you have trouble hearing the next day? Your hearing returns, but the damage is irreversible. There is a cumulative effect over the years that can lead to hearing loss in your 40s, 50s, and on. Thus, the American Academy of Audiology says the best way to protect your hearing health is to reduce noise exposure—both in loudness and in duration.

Do you listen to movies on the airplane? Podcasts on the subway? Music on the treadmill? We commonly to turn up the volume to block out the background noise. That’s a high decibel level plus long duration over years of workouts and commuting. But there is hope!

Noise-Canceling Earbuds to the Rescue

The latest crop of earbuds are stylish and sophisticated. Technologically-advanced earbuds use passive noise cancelling or active noise-canceling techniques to block out background noise. That means you can turn down the volume and still hear the programming. A reduction in volume means a reduction in noise exposure, which helps protect hearing and prevent hearing loss. We know better hearing means better brain function. (Read my article, “Want Better Brain Function? Get a Hearing Aid”) So, it’s a domino effect: better hearing … better brain health … better overall health and wellness …

So, yes, better earbuds for a better life. Power to the people.

Bill Schiffmiller is the CEO and Founder of Akoio, a company dedicated to providing products and services tailored to the needs of people with hearing loss. A life-long hearing aid user and hearing wellness advocate, Bill was the former Accessibility Advocate for Apple, Inc., and received his Master of Professional Studies degree in Design Management at Pratt Institute.