When I first started running, I took pride in the fact that I didn’t need headphones. I listened to nothing but the sounds of the environment around me. In fact, I didn’t use headphones for the first 11 marathons that I ran.
Then, I discovered public radio. Or more specifically, I discovered the radio show This American Life, then Car Talk, then Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. I very much wanted to listen to these shows but didn’t have time. But then it occurred to me that I could do it while running. And ever since, I’ve joggled with headphones.
It really is a more efficient use of my time.
For safety reasons, nowadays I run with one earphone in and one out. This was originally done accidentally as one of my headphones stopped working and I never bothered to fix it. It just feels better to have one ear free to hear the outside world (especially since I joggle almost exclusively in the city).
I always wondered whether the ear that typically gets the headphone would be affected. I haven’t noticed much difference but this research about the potential dangers of earphones suggests it is. According to scientists the noise level of earphones can reach levels similar to a jet engine. This can lead to temporary deafness and tinnitus.
This was already known but it was unknown how it happens. Well it turns out that the noise strips the nerve cells of a coating that typically surrounds them. This reduces the ability of the nerve cells to transmit a signal & causes hearing problems. Fortunately, the coating can recover (after about 3 weeks) so you get your hearing back.
But the bottom line of this research is that you should keep the volume of your earphones as low as you can because longtime exposure can cause permanent hearing loss. And that would make it really difficult to listen to the great shows on NPR.