Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related loss of hearing doesn’t only impact people who work in loud settings, like construction workers or heavy metal roadies. It doesn’t even need to be work-related, recreation-related noise exposure can be damaging, too. The most common kind? Loud sounds heard through headphones, whether it be music, gaming, streaming video, or even an audiobook with the volume turned up.

You may not believe your smartphone or tablet can go that loud. The normal pain threshold for human hearing is close to 150 db which is in the range of these devices. This is the volume where noise starts to literally cause pain in your ears. So what’s the answer for protecting your ears against volume related damage.

The volume level here is important. Listen with the volume at no more than 60% for 60 minutes or less at a stretch (how long you listen for also makes a difference), this is called the 60/60 rule.

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Listening to Music

Make certain, if you’re wearing hearing aids, you don’t attempt to drown out other sounds by turning your streaming music up too high. And there are better ways to listen to music so consult us about that also. Hearing aids aren’t created to increase the quality of music like they do with voices so if really like music, you might have discovered this. We may be able to make adjustments to minimize noise and feedback while increasing some frequency ranges to improve the quality of sound while listening to music.

What Are The Best Headphones For You?

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 will want to consider there as well.

Headphones That go Over The Ears

While the foam-covered earpieces that was included with your old Walkman are basically no longer used, over-the-ear headphones have made a comeback. They have lots of choices in style and color, are commonly endorsed by celebrities, and can be surprisingly expensive. And unlike those little foam pads, these go over the entire ear, blocking outside noises.

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 volume. Additionally, noise-canceling will probably help you ignore the crying baby on your flight, but in other situations, it can silence sounds you need to hear (such as a honking car). That said, because they cancel out outside sound, you can often reduce the volume of what you’re listening to so it’s not loud enough to hurt your hearing.


The standard earbuds that are included with devices such as iPhones are much maligned for their inferior sound quality, yet a lot of people still use them because hey, they were included with the phone. Moreover, with newer versions that lack a headphone jack, staying with Apple’s earbuds can just be easier.

The drawback, besides the inferior sound quality, is that basic earbuds can’t cancel outside noises, so that it’s more likely that you will crank up the volume. Once again,, though it’s frequently said that earbuds are a problem because you put them into your ear so their speakers are extremely close to your eardrum, actually volume is the biggest concern.

Isolating or Occluding Earbuds

Many people opt for earbuds with a rounded, rubbery tip both because they’re more comfortable than traditional earbuds and better at stopping outside sounds. A seal that blocks outside sound from getting in is formed by the rubber tip which molds to the shape of the ear. But these earbuds can also block out noises you need to hear and loud volume is still the number one concern. And if you use hearing aids, clearly these won’t work for you.

A number of pairs may have to be evaluated before you find headphones that do the job. Your expectations, acoustically, will be different dependant on what type of usage you usually give them. The relevant thing is to seek out headphones that make it comfortable for you to listen at a safe and secure volume.

How to Make Sure Your Hearing is Safeguarded

Is it Safe, How Can I be certain? There’s an app for that…If you have a smartphone, you can download the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s free Sound Level Meter app. You can get other apps, but research has discovered that the dependability of these other apps is spotty (in addition, for reasons yet unknown, Android-based apps have been shown to be less precise). That motivated NIOSH to create an app of their own. You can measure outside sounds with the app, but it’s also possible to measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, in other words, the true volume of what’s going to your ears. You have to put in a little effort, but taking these kinds of preventative measures can help protect 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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