Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related loss of hearing doesn’t just affect individuals who work in loud settings, such as construction workers or heavy metal roadies. It doesn’t even need to be work-related, leisure-related noise exposure can be damaging, also. The most prevalent type? Music, gaming, streaming video or anything that you would listen to through headphones or earbuds.

You might not believe your smartphone or tablet can go that loud. But these devices can attain continuous volumes of over 105 dB, which is near the ordinary human pain threshold. This is the volume where noise begins to literally cause pain in your ears. So what’s the answer for protecting your hearing against volume related damage.

The volume level here is significant. An easy shorthand that’s widely suggested is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at or below 60% for 60 minutes or less at a stretch (because the length of sound exposure matters, too).

Make a Setting on Your Hearing Aids For Music

If you have hearing aids, you’re most likely streaming your device right to your hearing aids, so make sure the volume is not too high or that you’re not trying to drown out other noises with your music. Also, ask us about how best to listen to music. If you’re a musician or real music aficionado you might have noticed that most hearing aids are programmed to sharpen the clarity of voices…not necessarily music. We may be able to make adjustments to reduce feedback and noise while maximizing some frequency to improve the quality of sound while listening to music.

What Are The Best Headphones For You?

If you don’t wear hearing aids, there are many options for buying headphones. It may be a matter of personal preference, but there are some things you will want to think about there too.

Headphones That go Over The Ears

While the foam-covered speakers that came with your old Walkman are largely a thing of the past, over-the-ear headphones have had a resurgence. Often surprisingly costly, they offer lots of color choices and celebrity endorsements, and of course, superior sound quality. And these headphones go over the entire ear blocking out noise, unlike those old foam ones.

Main-stream wisdom is that these are safer than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further away from your eardrum. But the reality is they’re often capable of much louder sound than the smaller kind, the speakers are much larger. Noise cancellation can be a good thing as long as you’re not missing out on needed sounds such as an oncoming automobile. But on the positive side, you won’t need to compete with outside noise so you can enjoy your music at lower levels.

Earbuds

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

The drawback, aside from the inferior sound quality, is that basic earbuds can’t block outside noises, so you’re more likely to crank up the sound level. It’s generally thought that placing earbuds so close to your eardrum is the main issue but it’s really the volume.

Earbuds That Block Outside Sound

More comfortable than ordinary earbuds, models that have a round rubber tip are the choice of many because they help block outside noise. A seal that blocks outside sound from entering is formed by the rubber tip which conforms to the shape of the ear. But these earbuds can also block out sounds you need to hear and loud volume is still the number one problem. Needless to say, these won’t work for you if you use hearing aids.

You might have to check out more than one pair before you find headphones that are right for you. Depending on what you’re most often using them for talking on the phone, say, versus listening to music, you’ll have different acoustic requirements. 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? There’s an app for that…If you use a smartphone, you can get the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s free Sound Level Meter app. There are different apps out there, but research has found that the reliability of these other apps is spotty (in addition, for unknown reasons, Android-based apps have proven less accurate). That motivated NIOSH to create their own app. The app lets you measure outside noises, but you can also measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, in other words, the actual volume of what’s being sent to your ears. You have to put in a little effort, but putting in place these kinds of protective steps can help safeguard your hearing.

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