Why I’ve Cut Headphones out of My Life

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Lying around my apartment are four different pairs of headphones, varying in sound quality and states of entanglement. In my bag are two more headphones wrapped around each other. I also have no doubt that there is a pair of headphones in the pocket of my jeans, waiting to be discovered like a five dollar bill.

Like many other people walking the streets, sitting on a bus, or doing work at a coffee shop, I’ve kept myself plugged in since the days of the iPod Mini, blaring the always lovely Patrice Rushen and the less than stellar Kesha.

To tell you the truth, I cannot remember a walk I’ve been on, a desk I’ve sat at, or a bus ride I’ve taken where I didn’t have headphones on me to plug in at a moments notice.

When I think about this critically, this is sort of a sad state to live in. To get through the day, I’ve been completely dependent on two pieces of wires with bulbous endpoints that project sound into my ears. Nonetheless, I needed those flimsy wires to get my ass out the door. I also needed to spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to replace lost or broken headphones. And yes, there were days I literally refused to go outside because a five-minute walk, without headphones, sounded too excruciating to endure.

This made me realize my dependence on headphones is sort of like being addicted to drugs. While popping buds in my ears is not the same as drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, the basic tenets for why I carry headphones carry some stark similarities.

Plugging in my headphones is an escape from reality. It allows me to ignore the people around me. It makes time go by faster. It helps me feel entertained when I am bored.

But plugging in my headphones has come with consequences. It often frustrates my friends, family, and coworkers, who constantly have to yell or poke at me to get my attention.

Additionally, I know I am suffering from hearing loss, specifically tinnitus, at a ridiculously early age. At least once a week, I experience a loud ringing noise that doesn’t go away for many minutes. I am also aware that my volume bar over the years has is cranked to the max, and sometimes even the max is not loud enough for me.

But worst of all, I miss a lot of serendipitous moments in life. By shutting myself in with headphones, I lose opportunities to connect with people around me. I can not think of one great conversation I have had with a random person because that is impossible to do with music blaring in my ears.

So I have decided to cut headphones out of my life. While it was a bit awkward at first, my first week without headphones has been a refreshing experience. Yes, the silence has lead to a bit of an anxiety jump, but I’ve also noticed that I am beginning to appreciate what I can hear a lot more. I’m also not wasting so much time looking for another song to overplay on Spotify, and to fill the time spent riding the bus, I have actually begun to take full advantage of my Kindle I bought a year ago. I also have an inkling that, over time, I will actually listen to music.

Hopefully, I continue to put a moratorium on my use of headphones and incessant need to have a soundtrack for life. One week in, and I am already beginning to appreciate life around me a bit more than usual, as well as save some money along the way.