Man Falls Asleep Listening to Music with Earbuds On, Wakes Up Deaf in One Ear

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.

The popularity of headphones and earbuds has skyrocketed right alongside that of smartphones, with people using them pretty much everywhere, either to listen to music, take phone calls or even study. Some people reportedly use them while sleeping to learn foreign languages subconsciously. Even though “hypnopedia”, or the ability to learn during sleep, isn’t supported by any scientific evidence, many people still believe that because the brain is able to perceive sound during sleep, by exposing it to new information will cause it to retain at least some of it. But apparently, testing this concept, or even listening to music with earbuds or headphones on while sleeping isn’t a very good idea.


Dr. Tian Huiji, director of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at Asia University Hospital, in Taiwan, 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 important as well. 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.

via OMG Taiwan

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