Is It Dangerous to Wear Headphones While Running Outside?

Music can be a great motivator for any workout. Often, the right playlist can do a lot to keep your blood pumping and set the tempo for a jog. Runners especially tend to use music and even audiobooks and podcasts to keep them company through their routines.

However, wearing headphones can bring a lot of risks for outside runners. Doctors have been noticing an increased number of athletes in accidents while wearing headphones.

The Risks of Headphones While Outdoors

Even going for a walk requires a lot of attention if you’re going to be around roadways. You need to worry about other pedestrians, what drivers on the road are doing, plus pay attention to anything else in your immediate surroundings. Crossing the street can become a dangerous experience because, even if you’re obeying traffic signals, there’s no guarantee that everyone on the road is doing the same.

As children, we’re taught to look both ways and listen while crossing the street. Listening is a key component to keeping us safe. The sound of an approaching car, a blaring horn, or someone shouting can serve as the warning needed to react safely.

Wearing headphones cuts off our vital sense of hearing; we become able to only listen to what we’ve chosen, not the world around us. By cutting off one of our senses, we loose one of our most powerful tools to stay alert.

An independent survey showed that accidents involving pedestrians increased between 2004 and 2011, especially in urban areas, though the exact correlation between the factors remains undetermined. Such accidents aren’t always fatal, but they can lead to other life-altering injuries.

Safer Headphone Practices

With the potential for accidents while wearing headphones outdoors, runners should take steps to protect their safety. The best course of action can be to stop wearing headphones while exercising outdoors, including activities like running and biking. With the risks involved, it may be safer to save the headphones for indoor workouts.

If nothing else, anything that increases your awareness will help increase your safety as well. Some ways that you can accomplish this are:

  • Only wear a headphone in one ear. Instead of closing off both ears, leaving one open can give you a better scope of the world around you.
  • Don’t wear noise canceling headphones. Many headphones are noise-cancelling, which allows users to hear less of the world around them and more of the sound in their headphones. While this is great for people trying to cut off distracting sounds while working or enjoying music, it’s not so great for runners.
  • Look into phone apps. If you listen to music through your phone, look through apps and see if any adjust the level of your sound. Apps such as Awareness! for iPhone balance the amount of sound from headphones to let runners hear their surroundings.
  • Use on-ear workout headphones. While most headphones these days fit directly in the ear, other pairs sit on top of the ear instead. On-ear workout headphones stay on the ear while running but open your ability to hear ambient sounds.
  • Wear reflective headphones. Runners who exercise during darker times like dawn and dusk already know to wear light clothing reflective materials to help drivers notice them on the side of the road. Adding reflection to your headphones as well gives drivers another way to notice you.
  • Keep the volume low. No matter how much that workout song gets you in the mood to exercise, playing it too loud will also drown out the sounds around you. Besides keeping you alert, turning down the volume will also prevent possible hearing damage.
  • Find a running group. Running in a group will not only make you more visible to drivers, but it will also increase the amount of alert people present to prevent accidents. If you use this strategy, it’s even better if you all aren’t listening to music.

Safety is a serious issue, and you shouldn’t sacrifice your awareness just to enjoy some music while exercising.

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