It was bad news for a man who had fallen asleep while listening to music with earbuds on. He woke up to discover he could no longer hear with one ear. The deafness affected just one ear because one of the earbuds fell off while he was asleep.
The use of headphones and earbuds has become very popular in the society as people are getting addicted to using them pretty much everywhere, either to listen to music, take phone calls or even study.
There are some people who are said to use them while sleeping to learn foreign languages subconsciously. This is a process called “hypnopedia”, or the ability to learn during sleep, and it is not even supported by any scientific evidence. But many people still believe that because the brain is able to perceive sound during sleep, exposing it to new information will cause it to retain at least some of it. The fact remains that listening to music with earbuds or headphones on while sleeping is not a very good idea. One student in Taiwan learnt this the hard way.
The Department of Otorhinolaryngology at Taiwan’s Asia University Hospital recently reported the case of a student who fell asleep while listening to music with earbuds on and woke up completely deaf in one year.
Dr. Tian Huiji, director of the department, warned people against using earbuds and headphones to expose their ears to loud sounds while they’re sleeping, using a recent case as an example of possible consequences. He talked about a second-year student who showed up at the hospital complaining of being unable to hear with one ear. He told doctors that he had the habit of putting on his earbuds and listening to music before going to sleep, but the night before experiencing his sudden deafness, he had fallen asleep with the earbuds on.
Luckily for the unnamed student, one of the earbuds fell off while he was sleeping, so the deafness only affected one ear.
Dr. Huiji said that the teen gradually recovered after being hospitalized for 5 days, but advised people experiencing similar symptoms to seek medical help as soon as possible to prevent permanent damage.
Dr Huiji explained that even though some people wear earbuds and headphones for hours on end virtually every day without experiencing sudden deafness, doing the same thing while sleeping is much more dangerous. When we fall asleep, blood circulation in our body slows down, so while the hair cells in our ears are still stimulated by sounds coming out of the earbuds/headphones, the body cannot supply enough blood to them, which can result in sudden deafness.
According to the director of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology, earbuds are particularly dangerous, because they don’t allow any of the sound to escape outside. Padded headphones and earhook headphones are a safer choice, as they allow some of the sound to dissipate, but the volume at which sound is played is also important.
As a rule, Dr. Huiji advises against using any type of earphones or earbuds during sleep and also giving your ears a 10-minute break after every 50 minutes of using these hearing accessories during the day.