Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related loss of hearing doesn’t only impact individuals who work in loud surroundings, like construction workers or heavy metal roadies. It doesn’t even have to be work-related, recreation-related noise exposure can be damaging, also. What type of exposure are we discussing? Music, gaming, streaming video or anything that you would listen to through earbuds or headphones.

You may not realize your smartphone or tablet can get that loud. The normal pain threshold for human hearing is close to 150 db which is in the range of these devices. Your ears will actually start to feel pain at this volume. So what can you do to safeguard against this kind of noise-related loss of hearing?

The volume level here is essential. A simple shorthand that’s widely recommended is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at no more than 60% for 60 minutes or less at a stretch (because how long you listen for matters, too).

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Music

Be certain, if you’re wearing hearing aids, you don’t try to drown out other sounds by turning your streaming music up too loud. And there are much healthier ways to listen to music so ask us about that as well. Hearing aids aren’t designed to make music clearer like they do with voices so if really like music, you might have discovered this. While listening to music, we can probably make various adjustments to help better the sound quality and decrease the feedback.

How to Choose The Right Headphones

If you don’t own hearing aids, there are lots of choices for purchasing headphones. It may be a matter of personal preference, but there are some things you should consider there as well.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

Over the ear headphones are becoming popular again but you most likely won’t see the old foam covered ear pieces that used to come with a walkman. They have a lot of options in style and color, are commonly endorsed by celebrities, and can be surprisingly costly. And these headphones cover the whole ear stopping 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 from your eardrum. But because the speakers are bigger they are normally capable of much higher sound level. Noise cancellation can be a helpful thing as long as you’re not missing needed sounds such as an oncoming vehicle. But on the positive side, you won’t have to compete with outside noise so you can enjoy your music at lower volumes.


The standard earbuds that are included with devices like iPhones are known for their poor quality of sound, but because they come with your phone a lot of people still use them. Moreover, with newer devices that no longer have a headphone jack, sticking with Apple’s earbuds can just be easier.

The drawback, besides the poor sound quality, is that basic earbuds can’t cancel outside noises, so that it’s more likely that you will crank up the sound level. It’s generally believed that inserting earbuds so close to your eardrum is the main issue but it’s really the volume.

Isolating or Occluding Earbuds

More comfortable than ordinary earbuds, models that have a round rubber tip are the choice of many because they help obstruct outside noise. A seal that stops outside noise from getting in 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 main issue. Obviously, these won’t work for you if you use hearing aids.

Several pairs might have to be tested before you find headphones that are what you are looking for. Your expectations, acoustically, will be different depending on what type of use you usually give them. Enjoying your music at a healthy volume and coming across headphones that help you do that is the key.

How to be Certain Your Hearing is Protected

Is it Safe, How Can I be Sure? There’s an app for that…If you use a smartphone, you can download the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s free Sound Level Meter app. There are other apps you can get, but studies has discovered that the dependability of these other apps is hit-and-miss (in addition, for unknown reasons, Android-based apps have been shown less precise). That motivated NIOSH to create their own app. The app allows you to measure outside noises, but sounds coming out of your device’s speakers can also be measured, essentially, the actual volume of what’s being sent to your ears. You have to do a little work, but putting in place these types of protective steps can help safeguard your ears.

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