Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related hearing loss doesn’t only impact individuals who work in loud environments, such as construction workers or heavy metal roadies. It doesn’t even have to be work-related, leisure-related noise exposure can be damaging, also. The most common kind? Music, gaming, streaming video or anything else that you would listen to through headphones or earbuds.

You may be alarmed to discover 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 actually start to feel pain at this volume. So what’s the plan to protect against this kind of noise-related loss of hearing?

It’s important here to consider 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.

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Listening to Music

If you wear hearing aids, you’re most likely streaming your device right to your hearing aids, so make sure the volume is not too loud or that you’re not attempting to drown out other sounds with your music. In addition, consult us about how to best listen to music. If you’re a musician or real music aficionado you might have recognized that most hearing aids are programmed to improve the clarity of voices…not necessarily music. We may be able to change the configuration to lessen feedback and noise while increasing some frequency ranges to better the quality of sound while listening to music.

How to Select The Right Headphones

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

Over-the-Ear Headphones

While the foam-covered earpieces that came with your old Walkman are largely a thing of the past, over-the-ear headphones have made a comeback. Often surprisingly expensive, they feature a large variety of color possibilities and celebrity endorsements, and of course, better sound quality. And these headphones go over the whole ear stopping unwanted sound, unlike those old foam ones.

Main-stream perception 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 often capable of much louder sound level. Additionally, noise-canceling may help you ignore the crying baby on your flight, but in other circumstances, it can block sounds you should hear (like a honking car). That said, because they cancel out outside sound, you can normally 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 widely recognized for inferior sound quality, but because they come with your phone lots of people still use them. In addition, with newer versions that no longer have a headphone jack, sticking with Apple’s earbuds can just be easier.

Earbuds also don’t cancel out noise so the downside is, you tend to turn up the sound level. It’s generally believed that inserting earbuds so close to your eardrum is the main concern but it’s actually the volume.

Noise Blocking Earbuds

More comfortable than standard earbuds, models that have a round rubber tip are the choice of many because they help block outside sound. The rubber molds to the shape of your ear, producing a seal that stops other noises from entering. Not to sound like a broken record, but these have the same drawbacks 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, obviously these won’t work for you.

You may need to test out more than one pair before you find headphones that are correct for you. Depending on what you regularly use them for talking on the phone, say, as opposed to listening to music, you’ll have different acoustic expectations. Enjoying your tunes at a healthy volume and coming across headphones that help you do that is essential.

Don’t Cut Corners When Dealing With Your Hearing

How can you be certain it’s safe? 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. You can get other apps, but studies has found that the reliability of these other apps is hit-and-miss (additionally, for unknown reasons, Android-based apps have been shown less reliable). That prompted NIOSH to develop an app of their own. The app lets you measure external sounds, but it’s also possible to measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, so you will find out exactly how much volume your ears are subjected to. It’s a little bit of effort, but taking these types of preventative measures can help protect your hearing.

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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