Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Individuals who work in loud settings like construction sites or at heavy metal concerts are not the only people affected by noise related loss of hearing. It doesn’t even need to be work-related, leisure-related noise exposure can be dangerous, too. What kind of exposure are we talking about? Music, gaming, streaming video or anything else that you would listen to through headphones or earbuds.

You might be surprised to learn that a mobile device can go that loud. The normal pain threshold for human hearing is about 150 db which is in the range of these devices. This is the volume where noise begins to literally hurt your ears. So what’s the plan to safeguard against this kind of noise-related hearing loss?

It’s relevant here to consider the volume. A quick shorthand that’s widely suggested is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at or below 60% for no more than 60 minutes at a stretch (because how long you listen for matters, too).

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Listening to Music

If you wear hearing aids, you’re more than likely streaming your device directly to your hearing aids, so be certain the volume is not too high or that you’re not trying to drown out other sounds with your music. And there are more appropriate ways to listen to music so consult us about that as well. Hearing aids aren’t created to make music clearer like they do with voices so if you’re really into music, you may have observed this. We may be able to change the configuration to decrease feedback and noise while boosting some frequency to enhance the quality of sound when listening to music.

How to Pick The Best Headphones

When getting headphones there are lots of choices, specifically if you use hearing aids. There are a few things to think about, although it’s generally a matter of personal choice.

Headphones That go Over The Ears

While the foam-covered speakers that was included with your old Walkman are largely no longer used, over-the-ear headphones have had a resurgence. They have lots of choices in style and color, are commonly endorsed by celebrities, and can be unexpectedly pricey. And unlike those little foam pads, these go over the whole ear, blocking outside sounds.

Conventional perception is that these are less dangerous than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further away from your eardrum. But the fact is they’re frequently able to reach louder sound than the smaller kind, the speakers are much larger. Noise cancellation can be a good thing as long as you’re not losing useful sounds such as an oncoming car. Having said that, because they block out outside noise, you can typically reduce the volume of what you’re listening to so it’s not so loud that it will injure your hearing.


The normal earbuds are widely recognized for inferior sound quality, although lots of people still use them because hey, they were included with the phone. Specifically, with newer Apple devices, it’s just easier to use the earbuds which were provided with the device because it probably won’t have a headphone jack.

The drawback, besides the inferior sound quality, is that basic earbuds don’t cancel outside noises, so that it’s more likely that you will crank up the volume. It’s commonly assumed that sticking earbuds so close to your eardrum is the primary problem but it’s actually the volume.

Earbuds That Block External Noise

Lots of people buy earbuds with a rounded, rubbery tip both because they’re more comfortable than standard earbuds and better at stopping outside sounds. The rubber conforms to the shape of your ear, creating a seal that stops other noises from getting in. Not to sound like a broken record, but these have the same disadvantages as the other two (it’s all about the volume), as well as carrying the same caution as over-the-ear headphones (they can block out warning sounds). Needless to say, these won’t work for you if you wear hearing aids.

You may have to test out quite a few pairs before you find headphones that are what you are looking for. Your expectations, acoustically, will be different dependant on what type of usage you usually give them. Listening to your tunes at a healthy volume and finding headphones that help you do that is the key.

Don’t Cut Corners When it Comes to Your Hearing

Is it Safe, How Can I be certain? If you have a smartphone, you can get an app for that, you can get the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s free Sound Level Meter app. You can get different apps, but studies has found that the accuracy of these other apps is spotty (additionally, for unknown reasons, Android-based apps have been shown to be less precise). That prompted NIOSH to create an app of their own. You can measure outside noise using the app, but sounds coming out of your device’s speakers can be measured too, so you will learn precisely how much volume your ears are getting. It’s a little bit of work, but putting in place these kinds of preventative steps can help safeguard your ears.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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