Why we should avoid using Head Phones for listening

  • Author tells why we should avoid using head phones.

The author has used simple words to describe the inner and outer human ear. If anyone wants to know more about the ear/hearing, there are  tons of materials in the public domain. You may start with https://www.organsofthebody.com/ears

The use of headphones is quite popular, and millions use this to listen silently, not disturbing others. Let us look at a few aspects of this behaviour, and also how it really affects not only our selves, but the sound/music we hear.

Its a common practice to use headphones to listen to music as we work, desk work , or cooking etc. The reason  could be three fold.

One: We do not want to disturb others who are around with the sound or music that will spill into a common space,


Two: Desire to isolate oneself from the environment, shut off all the unwanted noise, around. If they see you are wearing headphones, they are least likely to disturb you , or speak with you.


Three: Our notion that by isolating all sound, we are able to hear very clearly in detail the music etc.

The first two reasons perhaps fall  more into social behavioural , and normative realms and therefore subjective. We may leave that out of our present purview.

The third reason is what is worth dwelling into and is an attempt to address in this article.

How do we listen to sound or music. Clearly we all know that the wave patterns hit the aural cavity, and then are coded (transduction) into the human brain. But is that the only way? Wait a bit! Not really.

How do our fellowmen who are deaf hear sound or music? Clearly there are other avenues for the waves to reach the human brain. The waves have a vibration, which can be felt by the bony structure, and parts of the body, that pass on the vibration sensations to the brain. For those that cannot hear, these sensations are highly enhanced to transmit to our brains.

Parts of the temporal bones, nose bones, sternum, the soft areas of the throat , stoamc, the hairs on the hands are some of the areas that are quite sensative to capture these wave vibrations.It is the psychological and more subjectiive qualities of musical sound and the pathway from the source of a sound to the ear and auditory cortex, which is most needed for normal pleasurable hearing.

So what is the nature of this sound, or waves, or vibrations? And how does it change when we wear headphones?

The direct sound is when it starts from the source travels through the air and comes to the outer ear, then inner, cochlea, tympannum membranes . etc etc.

The reflective sound the other one is which comes to us by bouncing off differrent walls, or objects, for example,

The dispersive element of sound that uniformly disperses the waves so that its naturally easy for us to listen to and for the brain to analyse.

The headphones shut off large portions of the above traits, and it feeds directly into the aural canal, (and even if volumes are well regulated), causes a big strain to all parts of the outer and inner ear, as it is an unnatural way of listening to sound.

This strain by regular use causes, hearing loss, nervous disbalance, irritation and various other ailments.

This is because these three elements of  sound is not being filtered naturally by the air, and other objects that absorb sound and bring to the ear just as much as it can properly listen/comprehend. One of the elements is the Ricochet effect of the sound which the headphone produces (within the outer and inner ear) that causes  anxious tremors to the entire aural passage. It reduces the neural plasticity or the magical power of our nerves to change and adapt. 

In the long run, apart from hearing loss, it affects our body,  slowly reducing  our inherent powers of listening/processing sound in our brain. Remove those headphones, let the music come to you however soft, let it come with all the elements of other sounds, noises that come with it. It will keep your brain and powers well balanced. Please avoid listening with head phones.The auditory pathways to our brain,  follows from the cochlea to the auditory cortex.

According to the PLACE THEORY the relevant parameter is where on the membrane maximum displacement occurs.

According to the TIME THEORY, the relevant parameter is the time between successive phases of the displacement of the membrane by the energy of the travelling wave.

Pic of author.

The qualities of sound heard as music must be extracted from the waves propagated through the air from a source to a person that not only hears sound, but music!

So throw away those head phones, that hug your outer sweaty ears, or the deadly little buds that are embedded in your ear canals, and free your self. Immerse your listening sensations into the wonderful natural way of listening to sounds and music. It will make you happy. Happy natural listening!

Author   is a Toronto based BANSURI musician, teacher, speaker, maker of flutes of various worlds, a published author. His writings rely on his experiences of learning music, as he continues on that beautiful never ending journey. His thoughts emanate from the discipline and study of music spans over decades. He is deeply influenced by the Indian Music Traditional guru-shishya parampara; his guruji Late Pandit Malhar Rao Kulkarni bansuri musician, Swami Parmananda of Kangra Valley Ashram where he spent learning ancient Vidhis of India, principally Chanakya Neeti. The priceless subject that strengthens thought processing abilities.A  subject forgotten as Chanakya did not write any of his teachings down as a matter of his principle. The views and ideas expressed are his own, the objective being to invoke the person to think differently, on simple issues that surround all of us in day to day life. Site is www.mybansuri.com

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