Do IEMs Cause Hearing Loss? The Facts Explained

Audiophiles and musicians are constantly exposed to loud volumes and music daily. Prolonged exposure to loud sounds can lead to some permanent ear damage and hearing loss. 

Many in-ear monitor (IEM) users, in particular, are terrified of incurring irreversible damage to their hearing and ears due to the proximity of IEMs to our eardrums. This article will shed some light on this issue, explain the facts in detail and give a conclusive answer, so keep on reading!

Hearing loss and ear damage depend on two things, loudness and exposure time. The actual extra risk of hearing loss on items vs. headphones is something that isn’t true.

Do IEMs cause hearing loss, though? Well, the overall risk of causing damage to your hearing on IEMs, other headphones, and speakers is more or less the same. 

These audio devices can cause hearing loss if you expose yourself to dangerous levels of audio above 85 decibels for long durations. For shorter durations and levels between or below 70-80 decibels, IEMs and any other audio device can be perfectly safe for use.

The Facts: Do IEMs Cause Hearing Loss?

The final question to put all the myths to rest: do IEMs cause hearing loss? It is a yes and no because it can if you use it to listen to too loud audio or wear it for too long. But at the same time, if used appropriately, they are generally safe and can be at least as safe as other available alternatives.

This is the case for any other playback device because the only two essential things that affect our ears are exposure time and loudness. 

The proximity to the ears doesn’t matter as much because the most important thing is the loudness of the sound reaching our cochlea. 

IEMs, in most cases, are generally safer than other headphones because their proximity and noise-canceling design mean that people can often enjoy music and use IEMs at much lower volumes than other headphones. 

This soundproofing can protect your ears and hearing by letting you enjoy music at much lower volumes without having to raise the loudness to block out background noise. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers any audio above 85dBs unsafe for our ears. It can lead to irreparable damage down the line if you listen to such loud audio levels for long durations of time. 

Generally, the lower the volume, the more time you can increase and spend on listening to music. Be sure to take breaks from listening to music after every hour or so, listen to low volume for most of the time when listening to music casually. Preferably keep your volume at or below 60% of the maximum to keep your ears safe. Your cochlea will thank you for it in the long run.

As a general rule of thumb to check if the music you’re listening to is too loud, snap your fingers from roughly a foot away during your jamming session; if you can hear it clearly, it means your volume isn’t dangerously loud. If you can’t listen to it properly, then consider lowering your volume to safer levels.

One other important thing to keep in mind is always going for IEMs with sound isolation and proper seal. This allows listeners to enjoy music at much lower volumes. 

What Are IEMs Used For And What Are Their Benefits

Before the 1980s and the invention of IEMs, most stage musicians were constantly exposed to unsafe audio levels by conventional stage monitors. IEMs were designed to address this issue once and for all and have. Since their inception, they have become widely popular in the industry.

IEMs eliminates the need for traditional floor monitors on stage and help reduce the overall stage volume levels. With IEMs, musicians can select which sounds they want to hear and cancel out the rest. They essentially act as plugs and can reduce the amount of volume reaching your ears. This allows monitoring at significantly lower volumes without sacrificing accuracy.

All this results in excellent audio playback being available to performers on a live stage. They also make live singing much more manageable because the isolation means less vocal fatigue and improved pitch. 

They also help in eliminating feedback. IEMs have no acoustic connection with the mics on stage, meaning the singer and audience can enjoy an enhanced feedback-free experience. Traditional floor monitors or wedge speakers tend to produce a lot of feedback in comparison.

Additionally, perhaps the most significant advantage of IEMs is the portability and size factor. They allow performers to move across the stage without being restricted to a particular spot to listen to the audio. 

The portability also means that IEMs can help save substantial time and effort in transportation for touring bands due to not having to transport large and heavy floor monitors, cases, cables, and amps.

They also benefit from letting musicians control what they want to hear; they can even listen to a different instrument in each ear.

All in all, IEMs are used nowadays to help musicians on stage get accurate and controllable sound during live sessions. They also eliminate unneeded bleeding or external sounds such as guitars and drums on stage. This means that there’s no longer a need for competing stage monitors, and musicians don’t have to turn up their monitors over everyone else on stage to listen better.

Depending on your needs, though, IEMs can be suitable for personal use as well. The increased availability of good quality budget IEMs has spoiled consumers with many good options to choose from. 

If you want something that can accurately reproduce sound and has excellent noise cancellation properties (for your gaming needs, for example), IEMs might be up your alley!

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