Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Individuals who work in loud environments like construction sites or at heavy metal concerts are not the only ones impacted by noise related loss of hearing. Recreation associated noise exposure can be just as dangerous as work related noise exposure. The most prevalent kind? Loud noise heard through headphones, whether it’s music, gaming, streaming video, or even an audiobook with the volume cranked up.

You might be alarmed to discover that a mobile device can get that loud. The typical pain threshold for human hearing is around 150 db which is in the range of these devices. This is the volume where noise starts to literally hurt your ears. So what’s the solution for protecting your ears against volume related injury.

It’s important here to think about the volume. 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 in a single session (because the length of sound exposure matters, too).

Make a Setting on Your Hearing Aids For Music

If you wear hearing aids, you’re likely streaming your mobile device right to your hearing aids, so be sure the volume is not too high 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 quality of voices…not necessarily music. We may be able to change the configuration to minimize feedback and noise while boosting some frequency ranges to better the quality of sound while listening to music.

What Are The Best Headphones For You?

If you don’t wear hearing aids, there are a lot of choices for buying headphones. There are various things to think about, though it’s generally a matter of personal preference.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

While the foam-covered speakers that came with your old Walkman are generally no longer used, over-the-ear headphones have made a comeback. They have a lot of choices in color and style, are usually endorsed by celebrities, and can be surprisingly costly. And these headphones cover the whole ear limiting out noise, unlike those old foam ones.

Main-stream wisdom is that these are less dangerous than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further from your eardrum. But because the speakers are larger they are normally capable of much louder volume. In addition, noise-canceling could possibly help you ignore the crying baby on your flight, but in other circumstances, it can block sounds you should hear (such as a car honking). With that being said, because they block out outside sound, you can normally lower the volume of what you’re listening to so it’s not so loud that it will injure your hearing.


The normal earbuds that come with devices like iPhones are much maligned for their inferior quality of sound, but because they come with your phone many people still use them. Plus, with newer devices that lack a headphone jack, staying 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 volume. Again, though it’s often said that earbuds are problematic because you put them in your ear so their speakers are very close to your eardrum, actually volume is really the biggest concern.

Noise Canceling Earbuds

More comfortable than regular earbuds, models with a round rubber tip are the choice of many because they help stop outside sound. A seal that stops outside sound from getting in is formed by the rubber tip which molds to the shape of the ear. Not to sound like a broken record, but these types of earbuds have the same downsides as the other two (it’s all about the volume), as well as carrying the same caution as over-the-ear headphones (they can block out warning sounds). And if you use hearing aids, clearly these won’t work for you.

A number of pairs may have to be tested before you find headphones that do the job. Your expectations, acoustically, will differ depending on what kind of usage you normally give them. Listening to your music at a safe volume and coming across headphones that help you do that is essential.

How to Make Certain 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 get the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s free Sound Level Meter app. There are different apps you can get, but research has discovered that the accuracy of these other apps is hit-and-miss (also, for whatever reason, Android-based apps have been shown to be less reliable). That motivated NIOSH to develop an app of their own. The app allows you to measure outside sounds, but it’s also possible to measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, so you will find out precisely how much volume your ears are getting. You have to put in a little effort, but putting in place these types of preventative steps can help protect your ears.

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