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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 people affected by noise related hearing loss. Recreation related noise exposure can be just as harmful as work related noise exposure. What type of exposure are we discussing? Music, gaming, streaming video or anything that you would listen to through headphones or earbuds.

You may be alarmed to learn that a mobile device can get that loud. The ordinary pain threshold for human hearing is around 150 db which is well within the range of these devices. This is the volume where noise begins to literally hurt your ears. So what’s the plan to safeguard against this kind of noise-related loss of hearing?

It’s important here to consider the volume. An easy shorthand that’s widely suggested is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at or below 60% for no more than 60 minutes at a stretch (because how long you listen for matters, too).

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Music

Make certain, if you’re wearing hearing aids, you don’t try to drown out other sounds by cranking your streaming music up too high. And there are much healthier ways to listen to music so ask us about that also. Hearing aids aren’t designed to increase the quality of music like they do with voices so if really like music, you might have observed this. We may be able to make adjustments to minimize feedback and noise while boosting some frequency ranges to enhance the quality of sound when listening to music.

What Are The Best Headphones For You?

When choosing headphones there are many choices, particularly if you have hearing aids. It might be a matter of personal choice, but there are some things you should think about there too.

Headphones That go Over The Ears

Over the ear headphones are becoming popular again but you most likely won’t see the old foam covered ear pieces that once came with a walkman. They have lots of choices in color and style, are often endorsed by celebrities, and can be surprisingly costly. And unlike those little foam pads, these cover the whole ear, blocking outside noises.

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 larger they are usually capable of much higher volume. Noise cancellation can be a helpful thing as long as you’re not losing useful sounds like an oncoming car or truck. With that being said, because they block out outside sound, you can typically reduce the volume of what you’re listening to so it’s not so loud that it will harm your hearing.


The normal earbuds are well known for inferior quality of sound, though lots of people still use them because hey, they were included with the phone. Moreover, with newer models that no longer have a headphone jack, staying with Apple’s earbuds can just be easier.

Earbuds also don’t block out sound so the downside is, you tend to turn up the volume. It’s generally assumed that sticking earbuds so close to your eardrum is the main problem but it’s actually the volume.

Earbuds That Block Outside Noise

More comfortable than standard earbuds, models that have a round rubber tip are the choice of many because they help obstruct outside sound. A seal that stops outside sound from entering is formed by the rubber tip which molds to the shape of the ear. Not to sound like a broken record, but these have the same downsides as the other two (volume is the main problem), as well as carrying the same caution as over-the-ear headphones (they can block out warning sounds). And if you wear hearing aids, obviously these won’t work for you.

You might need to check out quite a few pairs before you find headphones that are appropriate for you. Your expectations, acoustically, will be different depending on what type of use you usually give them. The relevant thing is to find headphones that make it comfortable for you to listen at a safe and secure volume.

Don’t Cut Corners When Dealing With Your Hearing

How can you be sure it’s safe? There’s an app for that…If you use a smartphone, you can get the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s free Sound Level Meter app. You can get different apps, but studies has discovered that the reliability of these other apps is spotty (also, for whatever reason, Android-based apps have proven less precise). That prompted NIOSH to develop an app of their own. You can measure external noise using the app, but you can also measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, essentially, the true volume of what’s going to your ears. You have to do a little work, but putting in place these types of protective steps 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.