Date of Award


First Advisor

Dr. Rebecca Fang


Personal listening devices (PLDs), such as earbuds and headphones, are prevalent in today’s society, and overuse of these devices can cause hearing damage. Since the pandemic caused lockdowns and online classes, college students have presumably had more time to be indoors and to use PLDs, leading to a higher risk or developing hearing damage. Previous studies have explored the PLD use and the prevalence of hearing damage in college students, but this study investigates whether the coronavirus pandemic has affected college students’ PLD listening habits and whether these changes are related to the students’ disclosure of suspected symptoms of hearing damage. Using a variety of statistical tests and a random forest model trained using cross-validations, I analyzed data from a Qualtrics survey I created for adult college students to determine whether they have used PLDs more and whether their self-disclosure of symptoms of hearing damage, such as muffled sounds, sound sensitivity, persistent ringing in the ears, increased during the pandemic. As hypothesized, the data show a significant increase in the time college students used PLDs (i.e. days per week, hours per day, hours per day for school, and overall), as well as a significant increase in the number of students who reported symptoms of hearing damage during the pandemic. The long-term effects of college students’ increased PLD use are not yet known, but if these trends continue due to students’ newly-formed habits or increased rates of online classes, college students could be at a higher risk of developing hearing damage due to overuse of PLDs in the future.