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Running? Leave your headphones at home

When the Heart Says No by Roy Erasmus

Opinion - When the Heart Says No by Roy Erasmus

Notice all those people walking, running, or biking while using earphones or earbuds? Well, please don’t do that. And, please tell your kids to leave their headphones at home while walking, running, or biking outside. It’s not safe. Eschia!

When I was working for the department of Education, Culture and Employment, I went into a room where a summer student was facing away from me with earbuds on. I asked her where somebody was and she didn’t respond. I spoke louder. Nothing – she still didn’t look up or turn around.

Just then, the person I was looking for came in, started laughing, and said, “She can’t hear you. She’s got her earbuds on listening to music.”

Later that night, I saw that same girl riding her bike with her earbuds on. As she passed me she waved, said “Hi,” and kept going. I thought, “Holy moly, if she couldn’t hear me in a quiet room, how would she hear a car that’s going to hit her?” Not cool, man.

She was doing something healthy, but it was also increasing her risk of getting seriously injured. Her brain’s risk-benefit-analysis alarm should have gone off and told her, “This is a bad idea.” Mind you, she was around 20 years old and most people don’t fully appreciate the consequences of their actions until they’re about 25. What’s your excuse? LOL.

So, what do the experts say about being active while wearing headphones? Remember, wherever I say headphones, I also mean earbuds. Well, headphone manufacturers say to never, ever wear headphones while driving a vehicle. But, we knew that, right? Wink, wink!

Vancouver police say to avoid wearing headphones when walking, jogging, or biking because it could distract you from noises such as an approaching stranger or a car blowing its horn. So, the police are worried you will get hit by a vehicle or attacked by someone and you will not hear them coming.

One orthopedic surgeon I recall said doctors know running, walking, and biking with headphones is an obvious risk. He recently wrote, “A study found that injuries among pedestrians wearing headphones tripled between 2004 and 2011.”

He says emergency room professionals tell him they’ve noticed the increase in injuries, too. And he has seen many people who had their lives dramatically changed after something happened to them while using headphones. He adds that he and his wife are runners and they would never consider running with headphones. In other words, that will never do.

He says to save headphones for indoor workouts because there’s less danger, even if they distract you and dull one of your senses. If you insist on wearing headphones, at least keep one ear free while you run. So, health professionals are worried too.

How about damage to your ears? An audiologist who published a study on hearing loss related to earbuds says to not turn headphones on full blast. He says to follow the “80/90 rule,” which means use 80-per-cent volume for 90 minutes or less. His partner says even better is the 60/60 rule, meaning listen at 60-per-cent volume for 60 minutes then give your ears a break. Well yaaaaa!

Another audiologist says many people turn the sound up to hear the music better, but it’s healthier to spend extra money to get better ear pieces. He says, “Higher quality headphones or ear buds provide a higher fidelity sound so you are less likely to rely on the volume to enhance the fidelity.” Now you’re talking.

So, there you have it. Do not drive, walk, run, or bike outside with headphones on. If you do, at least keep one ear free. Buy headphones that are a bit more expensive so they have good sound quality and use them at 60-per-cent volume for 60 minutes, then give your ears a break. At the very, very maximum use them at 80-per-cent volume for 90 minutes or less.

Oh yeah, Jean and I never use headphones while walking, running, or biking outside.

Have a good week, and please leave your headphones at home.