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 ones impacted by noise related hearing loss. It doesn’t even have to be work-related, leisure-related noise exposure can be harmful, too. What type of exposure are we discussing? Loud sounds heard through headphones, whether it’s music, gaming, streaming video, or even an audiobook with the volume cranked up.

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

It’s important here to think about the volume. A simple shorthand that’s widely suggested is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at or below 60% for no more than 60 minutes in a single session (because the length of sound exposure matters, too).

Create a Setting on Your Hearing Aids For Listening to Music

Be certain, if you’re wearing hearing aids, you don’t try to drown out other sounds by cranking your streaming music up too loud. And there are much healthier ways to listen to music so ask us about that as well. If you’re a musician or someone who loves music you may have recognized that most hearing aids are created to sharpen the quality of voices…not necessarily music. We might be able to change the configuration to minimize feedback and noise while maximizing some frequency to better the quality of sound when listening to music.

What Are The Best Headphones For You?

When purchasing headphones there are many options, particularly if you use hearing aids. There are a few things to consider, although it’s generally a matter of personal choice.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

While the foam-covered speakers that was included with your old Walkman are generally no longer used, over-the-ear headphones have made a comeback. Often unexpectedly high-priced, they feature a large variety of color choices and celebrity endorsements, and yes, superior sound quality. And these headphones go over the whole ear limiting out noise, unlike those old foam ones.

Conventional perception is that these are safer than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further away from your eardrum. But the truth is they’re frequently able to reach louder sound than their smaller kin, the speakers are a lot larger. In addition, noise-canceling could possibly help you ignore the crying baby on your flight, but in other situations, it can block sounds you should hear (such as a honking car). With that being said, because they cancel out outside noise, you can often decrease the volume of what you’re listening to so it’s not loud enough to harm your hearing.


The standard earbuds are widely recognized for inferior sound quality, but because they come with your phone many people still use them. Particularly, with newer Apple phones, it’s just easier to use the earbuds that came with the device because it most likely doesn’t have a headphone jack.

The downside, aside from 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 volume. It’s commonly believed that inserting earbuds so close to your eardrum is the main concern but it’s really the volume.

Noise Canceling Earbuds

More comfortable than ordinary earbuds, models with a round rubber tip are the choice of many because they help stop outside noise. A seal that stops outside sound from getting in is formed by the rubber tip which conforms to the shape of the ear. But these earbuds can also block out noises you might need to hear and volume is still the biggest problem. And if you wear hearing aids, clearly these won’t work for you.

A number of pairs will probably need to be evaluated before you find headphones that are appropriate for you. Your expectations, acoustically, will differ dependant on what type of usage you usually give them. Enjoying your tunes at a safe volume and finding headphones that help you do that is the key.

How to be Certain Your Hearing is Safeguarded

Is it Safe, How Can I be Sure? 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. There are other apps out there, but studies has found that the dependability of these other apps is spotty (also, for whatever reason, Android-based apps have been shown less accurate). That motivated NIOSH to create their own app. You can measure external sounds using the app, but sounds coming out of your device’s speakers can also be measured, so you will know precisely how much volume your ears are subjected to. It’s a little bit of work, but taking these types of protective measures can help safeguard your ears.

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