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Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related hearing loss doesn’t only affect individuals who work in loud surroundings, like construction workers or heavy metal roadies. Leisure related noise exposure can be just as harmful as work related noise exposure. What type of exposure are we dealing with? Loud noise heard through headphones, whether it’s music, gaming, streaming video, or even an audiobook with the volume cranked up.

You might be surprised to learn that a mobile device can get that loud. The ordinary pain threshold for human hearing is roughly 150 db which is well within the range of these devices. Your ears will literally start to hurt at this volume. So what can you do to safeguard against this kind of noise-related loss of hearing?

The volume level here is significant. A quick shorthand that’s widely recommended is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at or below 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 Listening to Music

Make certain, if you’re utilizing hearing aids, you don’t attempt to drown out other noises by turning your streaming music up too loud. And there are much healthier ways to listen to music so consult us about that as well. If you’re a musician or real music aficionado you may have recognized that most hearing aids are created to sharpen the quality of voices…not necessarily music. While enjoying music, we can probably make some adjustments to help enhance the sound quality and minimize the feedback.

How to Select The Best Headphones

When picking out headphones there are many choices, especially if you have hearing aids. It might be a matter of personal preference, but there are some things you will want to think about there too.

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 had a resurgence. Often surprisingly costly, they feature lots of color choices and celebrity endorsements, and yes, superior sound quality. And these headphones go over the whole ear stopping 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 away from your eardrum. But because the speakers are bigger they are usually capable of much louder sound level. Also, noise-canceling will probably help you ignore the crying baby on your flight, but in other scenarios, it can block sounds you should hear (such as a honking car). But on the positive side, you won’t have to contend with outside noise so you can listen to your music at lower levels.


The normal earbuds that come with devices such as iPhones are known for their inferior sound quality, yet a lot of people still use them because hey, they were included with the phone. Specifically, with newer Apple phones, it’s just easier to use the earbuds which were provided with the device because it most likely won’t have a headphone jack.

Earbuds also don’t cancel out noise so the drawback is, you have a tendency to turn up the volume. It’s commonly thought that sticking earbuds so close to your eardrum is the primary 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 obstruct outside noise. 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 might need to hear and volume is still the number one problem. Obviously, these won’t work for you if you wear hearing aids.

You may have to check out quite a few pairs before you find headphones that work for you. Your expectations, acoustically, will be different dependant on what type of usage you usually give them. The important thing is to find headphones that make it comfortable for you to enjoy at a safe sound level.

How to Make Sure Your Hearing is Safeguarded

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 accuracy of these other apps is hit-and-miss (additionally, for unknown reasons, Android-based apps have proven less precise). That prompted NIOSH to develop an app of their own. The app enables you to measure external sounds, but sounds coming out of your device’s speakers can also be measured, so you will find out precisely how much volume your ears are subjected to. It’s a little bit of work, but taking these kinds of preventative measures can help protect your ears.