You might want to buy a new set of headphones even as offices and recreational centers throw open the doors, because digital will continue to be a large part of the way you communicate, going forward
The pandemic seems to have democratised the demand for headphones, taking it beyond the music fanatics to the office exec, the housewife, the student and even the elderly to help them chat with kids and grandkids miles and miles away. The one thing that the urban dweller seems to have realised is that the opening of the brick-and-mortar world will not, by any stretch of imagination, signal the end of virtual communication, which has become deeply entrenched in the mindset during two years of Coronavirus.
In the recent past, sellers on Amazon.in saw a high demand in categories such mobile phones, laptops, smart devices, headphones and such like, all of which have been great enablers in the areas of work-from-home and online schooling. Says Akshay Ahuja, Category Leader, Consumer Electronics, Amazon India: “With work-from-home and online classes becoming the new normal, students, teachers and professionals continue to look for gadgets that supplement their virtual lifestyle and make the learning and working experience fruitful and productive. The recent customer trends on the platform showcase a YoY growth of Bluetooth headphones and TWS (true wireless) earbuds, while sub-Rs 800 in-ear wired headphones continue to be popular in the traditional headphone category.”
Key brands include Apple, Sennheiser, Sony, BoAt, Bose, Samsung, Yamaha, Beats, JBL, Noise, Skull Candy, and Real Me. Just like other products, some earphones have more useful features than others. The trick is to shop around and check out different products to zero in on the one that is made for you–in short, an audio aid that would meet your needs within your budget.
Says Mumbaikar Suresh Rathod, who is a runner, cyclist and fitness enthusiast: “I prefer wireless ear plugs as they are hassle-free and can be used on the move. However, at home with WFH, I prefer headphones for sure. My go to device these days is Bose and Boat ear plugs that support my Nike running app. Smartwatch and ear plugs are also very apt for gifting.”
Headphones are of three types, namely in-ear, on-ear and over-ear. In-ears are the kind that fit comfortably inside the ear. On-ears are ones that rest on the ear and are a perfect segue between big over-ears and small in-ears. They are light and portable as well. Over-ears are larger headphones that sit around the ear and isolate it.
These ear devices may range from a few hundreds to a few thousands and even lakhs of rupees. Online marketplaces registered an overall increase in demand for all headphones due to WFH and online schooling, especially premium headphones or the affordable luxury segment. Apple, Bose, Beats and Beyer dynamics are top selling premium brands at Amazon.in. Says Akshay Ahuja of Amazon India: “The top-10 premium brands are priced largely in the Rs 9,000-20,000 range. Customers usually look for brand value/brand name, durability and advanced/unique technology while shopping for premium headphones. Truly wireless earbuds are the most popular form factor sold by premium brands.”
The audio store at Tata CliQ Luxury offers a diverse selection of premium and luxury brands across three key categories-–speakers, headphones, and home theatres across brands like Marshall, Bang & Olufsen, Sonos, Bowers & Wilkins, etc. The price point of the audio devices generally begins at Rs 5,000 and goes up to Rs 4–40 lakh. Gitanjali Saxena, Business Head–Global Luxury at Tata CLiQ Luxury, says, “On Tata CLiQ Luxury, the “in-ear” category under the headphone segment has seen a lot of momentum, with the demand skewed towards wireless and earplugs. Customers consider portability, durability, quality of performance, ease of use, and a design that complements their individual style while shopping for audio devices.”
How to choose
In order to find the perfect set, you must keep your personal preferences in mind. Don’t go for something fancy that has the potential to be a punishment on your ears, for instance.
Select a size that best suits you. If you’re looking for light and portable, go for in-ears or on-ears. If you want comfortably large ones with superior audio response, over-ears are a good bet. Whatever the design, make sure they are in sync with your style of usage.
Look for comfort. The set you use must allow you to use it for both short and extended periods, without causing much strain. Understand portability. Wireless earphones offer you the option of doing away with those pesky wires. At first glance, this might sound like a terrific idea. No more tangles, no more fumbling around with bunched wires that magically tie themselves into the most frustrating knots when you least want them. Be warned though, as this is a tricky call. As with everything, there are pros and cons. You gain mobility, but also compromise on quality. Wired always has a better audio response. But for those who want to walk in between, wireless is a better option. One more disadvantage of wireless headphones is that since they run on batteries, they’ll need charging from time to time.
Besides wireless and wired, headphones also offer add-on features like microphones and buttons to control volume and songs. Ensure that the earphone you buy has good fit and padding. This will help distribute sound evenly and will also make the earphones comfortable.
With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing professionals to work from home and students to attend classes online using earphones, doctors are now getting far more patients with complaints of pain, irritation, and ear infections.
Dr Harshad Nikte, Consultant, ENT Specialist, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai, says that most people have come with fungal infections in the ear due to excessive use of earphones, which that leads to first itching followed by fungal infection. He adds, “We had cases of hearing loss due to Covid in the first and second waves. Medically, we recommend that any audio device should not be used for a prolonged time exceeding 40 min at volume more than 80 decibels (equal to a lawnmower). Prefer using headphones over earphones or Bluetooth earpieces. Bluetooth earphones can emit radiation in low amounts whereas earphones are closer to the eardrum and can vibrate the eardrum if exposed to high volumes of sound. Limit the time of using audio devices and use alternatives such as speakers when possible. Take breaks at least once in an hour after prolonged listening sessions. Clean the wired or wireless devices regularly. Persistent and prolonged use of earplugs results in ear infections. So, in case of pain or itching in your ear, please visit your nearest doctor.”
Avoiding noise-induced trauma is one of the best ways to reduce your chances of hearing loss. Try to keep the volume in your headphones to a minimum, advises Dr Sanjay Bhatia, ENT surgeon, Fortis Hospital Mulund. He adds that while both headphones and earplugs can be used for a short duration with controlled volume, it is better to use over-the-ear headphones than earbuds. Not only do you not have to worry about funnelling sound directly into your eardrums, but most over-the-ear headphones are also, as a rule, more comfortable to wear than earbuds.
Listening at a comfortable level should be safe for an unlimited amount of time, though it is essential to balance the duration of use with the loudness of exposure. It is also a good idea to take breaks after prolonged listening sessions. Be sure to reach out to an Audiologist or Otolaryngologist if you experience ear pain or ache
Table: Indicative price list of some headset and earphone brands
|Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless Bluetooth Over The Ear Headphone with Mic (Black)
|New Apple AirPods Max – Pink
|Sennheiser HD 650 Wired Open back Headphone without Mic (Black)
|Bose Noise Cancellation Bluetooth Wireless On Ear Headphones with Mic (Black)
|Sony WH-1000XM4 Industry Wireless noise cancelling Bluetooth headphones
|Sony WF-1000XM4 Active noise cancellation wireless Bluetooth; 5.2 Earbuds with 32hr battery life, Alexa voice control, mic for phone calls
|Beats Studio Buds Bluetooth Truly Wireless in Ear Earbuds with Mic (Red); 4.1 out of 5 stars 1,074
|YAMAHA EP-E70A Wireless bluetooth in ear neckband headphone, advance noise cancelling, ambient Sound Mode, listening Optimizer
|Sennheiser HD 450SE Bluetooth Wireless Over Ear Headphones with Mic
|One plus Buds Pro Bluetooth Truly Wireless in Ear Earbuds with mic (Matte Black)
|Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro 99% Noise Cancellation, Wireless Charging, 28 Hours Playtime
|JBL Tune 760NC Over Ear Active Noise Cancellation Headphones with Mic, up to 50 Hours Playtime, JBL Pure Bass, Google Fast Pair, Dual Pairing, AUX & Voice Assistant Support for Mobile Phones
|Sony WF-C500, Truly Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds with 20 Hours Battery Life
|Jabra Elite Noise Isolating with 4 Built-in Microphones for Clear Calls, Rich Bass
|YAMAHA EP-E30AWireless Bluetooth in Ear Neckband Headphone with Mic for Phone Call, Listening Care (White)
|boAt Rockerz 255; In-Ear Earphones with 8 Hours Battery, IPX5, Bluetooth V5.0 and Voice Assistant(DC Blue)
Credit: Market Research