Are earbuds hazardous to your hearing?

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Am I doing any damage to my hearing by cranking up the music in my earbuds?

The good thing about personal music players and their headphones—especially those ubiquitous white earbuds—is that you can groove in the gym or rock out at the market.

The bad thing about them, Dr. Oz says, is that they will almost certainly damage your hearing if you listen for too long or crank up the volume too high. "If you're exposed to a noise as loud as a city street for more than an hour at a time, it's dangerous," Dr. Oz says. "Think about this: When you wear your earphones, you [could] generate noise that's loud enough to drown out the city street."

Prolonged exposure to loud noises—including piped-in music—shakes up the bones in the middle of your ear and overstimulates the tiny hairs in your ear. Dr. Oz compares these overstimulated hairs to the bristles on a worn-out toothbrush. That loud music can lead to hearing loss and tinnitus—a permanent ringing in the ears. "Any time you hear a little ringing in your ears," Dr. Oz says, "you had it turned up too loud." To be safe, he says you shouldn't ever turn the volume up to more than 70 percent of the maximum.

Loud noise may not only leave a ringing in your ears—it could take years off your life. Dr. Oz says a recent study in Germany suggests there may be a connection between loud noises and heart problems. "Women had a 50 percent increased chance of having a heart attack if they were exposed to a lot of noise all day long, especially at home," he says. Though Dr. Oz says the reasoning behind this isn't known for sure, researchers believe that the added stress of being around loud noises creates more heart-damaging anxiety. "Although you don't realize it, your body does. And it doesn't react to it on the right way."