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Teenage boy listening to music through headphones

If you believe that hearing loss only happens to older people, you might be surprised to learn that today 1 out of every 5 teens has some level of hearing loss in the United States. In addition, the rate of hearing loss in teens is 30 percent higher than it was in the 1980s and 1990s.

It should come as no great surprise then that this has caught the attention of the World Health Organization, who in answer released a statement notifying us that 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are at risk for hearing loss from dangerous listening practices.

Those dangerous habits include attending loud sporting events and concerts without hearing protection, along with the unsafe use of headphones.

But it’s the use of earphones that may be the number one threat.

Bear in mind how often we all listen to music since it became portable. We listen in the car, in the workplace, at the gym, and at home. We listen while out for a walk and even while going to sleep. We can integrate music into nearly any aspect of our lives.

That level of exposure—if you’re not careful—can gradually and silently steal your hearing at an early age, leading to hearing aids in the future.

And considering that no one’s prepared to abandon music, we have to uncover other ways to safeguard our hearing. Luckily, there are simple and easy safeguards we can all take.

The following are three vital safety guidelines you can make use of to preserve your hearing without compromising your music.

1. Limit the Volume

Any sound louder than 85 decibels can lead to permanent hearing loss, but you don’t need to buy yourself a sound meter to measure the decibel level of your music.

Instead, a good general guideline is to keep your music player volume at no higher than 60 percent of the max volume. Any higher and you’ll most likely be above the 85-decibel limit.

In fact, at their loudest, MP3 players can pump out more than 105 decibels. And given that the decibel scale, like the Richter scale, is logarithmic, 105 decibels is about 100 times as intense as 85.

Another tip: normal conversation registers at about 60 decibels. Therefore, if while listening to music you have to raise your voice when speaking to someone, that’s a good sign that you should turn down the volume.

2. Limit the Time

Hearing damage is not only a function of volume; it’s also a function of time. The longer you expose your ears to loud sounds, the more extensive the injury can be.

Which brings us to the next rule of thumb: the 60/60 rule. We already recommended that you keep your MP3 player volume at 60 percent of its maximum volume. The other aspect is ensuring that you limit the listening time to under 60 minutes a day at this volume. And keep in mind that lower volumes can handle longer listening times.

Taking routine rest breaks from the sound is also crucial, as 60 decibels without interruption for two hours can be far more damaging than four half-hour intervals spread throughout the day.

3. Pick the Right Headphones

The reason the majority of us have difficulty keeping our MP3 player volume at under 60 percent of its maximum is a consequence of background noise. As environmental noise increases, like in a congested fitness center, we have to compensate by boosting the music volume.

The remedy to this is the usage of noise-cancelling headphones. If background noise is lessened, sound volume can be reduced, and high-fidelity music can be enjoyed at lower volumes.

Low-quality earbuds, in contrast, have the twin disadvantage of being closer to your eardrum and being incapable of controlling background noise. The quality of sound is lower as well, and coupled with the distracting external sound, increasing the volume is the only method to compensate.

The bottom line: it’s truly worth the money to spend money on a pair of high quality headphones, preferably ones that have noise-cancelling functionality. That way, you can stick to the 60/60 rule without compromising the quality of your music and, more significantly, your hearing later in life.