Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related hearing loss doesn’t just affect people who work in loud surroundings, such as construction workers or heavy metal roadies. Leisure related noise exposure can be just as dangerous as work related noise exposure. The most common kind? Music, gaming, streaming video or anything else that you would listen to through headphones or earbuds.

You might not think your smartphone or tablet can get that loud. But these devices can reach continuous volumes of over 105 dB, which is close to the ordinary human pain threshold. Your ears will actually start to feel pain at this volume. So what can you do to safeguard against this type of noise-related hearing loss?

It’s relevant here to think about the volume. Listen with the volume at no more than 60% for no more than 60 minutes each session (how long you listen for also makes a difference), this is known as the 60/60 rule.

Make a Setting on Your Hearing Aids For Music

If you use hearing aids, you’re likely streaming your device directly to your hearing aids, so make certain the volume is not too loud or that you’re not attempting to drown out other noises with your music. In addition, ask us about how to best listen to music. If you’re a musician or real music aficionado you might have noticed that most hearing aids are created to improve the clarity of voices…not necessarily music. While listening to music, we can most likely make various adjustments to help improve the sound quality and minimize the feedback.

What Are The Best Headphones For You?

When purchasing headphones there are numerous options, particularly if you use hearing aids. It may be a matter of personal choice, but there are some things you should think about there as well.

Headphones That go Over The Ears

While the foam-covered earpieces that was included with your old Walkman are mostly no longer used, over-the-ear headphones have made a comeback. Often surprisingly high-priced, they feature a large variety of color options and celebrity endorsements, and yes, better sound quality. And unlike those little foam pads, these cover the entire ear, blocking outside noises.

Conventional 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. Noise cancellation can be a good thing as long as you’re not missing out on needed sounds like an oncoming automobile. Having said that, because they block out outside sound, you can often decrease the volume of what you’re listening to so it’s not loud enough to injure your hearing.


The normal earbuds that are included with devices such as iPhones are much maligned for their inferior sound quality, although a lot of people still use them because hey, they were included with the phone. Especially, 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 downside, in addition to the inferior sound quality, is that basic earbuds don’t block outside noises, so that it’s more likely that you will pump up the sound level. Once again,, though it’s frequently said that earbuds are problematic because you put them in your ear so their speakers are extremely close to your eardrum, actually volume is the biggest problem.

Earbuds That Block Outside Sound

More comfortable than ordinary earbuds, models with a round rubber tip are the choice of many because they help obstruct outside sound. A seal that blocks 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 might need to hear and volume is still the number one concern. And if you wear hearing aids, obviously these won’t work for you.

You might need to test out more than one pair before you find headphones that are correct 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 expectations. The essential thing is to seek out headphones that make it comfortable for you to listen at a safe volume.

Don’t Cut Corners When Dealing With Your Hearing

Is it Safe, How Can I be Sure? 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 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 proven less precise). That prompted NIOSH to develop their own app. You can measure external noise with the app, but it’s also possible to measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, so you will know exactly how much volume your ears are getting. It’s a little bit of work, but putting in place these types of preventative measures can help safeguard 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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