Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

People who work in loud environments like construction sites or at heavy metal concerts are not the only ones impacted by noise related loss of hearing. It doesn’t even need to be work-related, leisure-related noise exposure can be harmful, too. The most common kind? Music, gaming, streaming video or anything that you would listen to through headphones or earbuds.

You may not believe your smartphone or tablet can get that loud. But these devices can achieve continuous volumes of over 105 dB, which is near the normal human threshold for pain. This is the volume at which noise starts to literally cause pain in your ears. So what’s the answer for protecting your hearing against volume related injury.

The volume level here is significant. An easy shorthand that’s widely suggested is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at no more than 60% for no more than 60 minutes at a stretch (because the length of sound exposure matters, too).

Make a Setting on Your Hearing Aids For Listening to Music

Be certain, if you’re using hearing aids, you don’t attempt to drown out other noises by turning your streaming music up too high. And there are better ways to listen to music so ask us about that also. If you’re a musician or real music aficionado you may have recognized that most hearing aids are created to sharpen the quality of voices…not necessarily music. We may be able to make adjustments to lessen feedback and noise while maximizing some frequency ranges to better the quality of sound while listening to music.

How to Choose The Best Headphones

When getting headphones there are numerous options, especially if you have hearing aids. There are various things to think about, although it’s largely a matter of personal choice.

Headphones That go Over The Ears

Over the ear headphones are becoming popular again but you most likely won’t see the old foam covered speakers that once came with a walkman. They have lots of choices in color and style, are often endorsed by celebrities, and can be unexpectedly expensive. And unlike those little foam pads, these cover the whole ear, stopping outside noises.

Main-stream wisdom is that these are less dangerous than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further away from your eardrum. But the truth is they’re often capable of much louder sound than their smaller kin, the speakers are a lot larger. Noise cancellation can be a good thing as long as you’re not losing important sounds like an oncoming car. But on the positive side, you don’t need to compete with outside noise so you can enjoy your music at lower volumes.

Earbuds

The standard earbuds are widely recognized for poor sound quality, but because they come with your phone many people still use them. Particularly, with newer Apple devices, it’s just easier to use the earbuds that were provided with the device because it probably won’t have a headphone jack.

The downside, in addition to the poor sound quality, is that basic earbuds can’t cancel outside noises, so that it’s more likely that you will pump up the sound level. Again, though it’s commonly said that earbuds are a problem because you put them into your ear so their speakers are extremely close to your eardrum, volume is the biggest problem.

Earbuds That Block Outside Noise

More comfortable than ordinary earbuds, models that have a round rubber tip are the choice of many people because they help stop outside sound. The rubber molds to the shape of your ear, producing a seal that blocks other noises from getting in. But these earbuds can also block out noises you need to hear and volume is still the biggest concern. And if you wear hearing aids, clearly these won’t work for you.

You might need to check out quite a few pairs before you find headphones that meet your specifications. Your expectations, acoustically, will differ depending on what kind of usage you normally give them. Enjoying your tunes at a healthy volume and coming across headphones that help you do that is the key.

Don’t Cut Corners When Dealing With Your Hearing

How can you be certain it’s okay? If you use a smartphone, you can get an app for that, you can download the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s free Sound Level Meter app. You can get different apps, but research has discovered that the accuracy of these other apps is hit-and-miss (in addition, for unknown reasons, Android-based apps have been shown to be less precise). That prompted NIOSH to develop their own app. You can measure external sounds with the app, but sounds coming out of your device’s speakers can also be measured, this means, the true volume of what’s being sent to your ears. It’s a little bit of work, but taking these types of protective steps can help safeguard your ears.

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