Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

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

You may not realize your smartphone or tablet can go that loud. But these devices can reach sustained volumes of over 105 dB, which is close to the average human pain threshold. Your ears will actually start to hurt at this volume. So what can you do to safeguard against this sort of noise-related hearing loss?

The volume level here is important. A quick shorthand that’s widely suggested is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at or below 60% for no more than 60 minutes in a single session (because how long you listen for matters, too).

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Music

Be sure, if you’re using hearing aids, you don’t try to drown out other noises by cranking your streaming music up too loud. Also, ask us about how to best listen to music. Hearing aids aren’t designed to make music clearer like they do with voices so if really like music, you may have noticed this. While enjoying music, we can probably make a few modifications to help enhance the sound quality and lessen the feedback.

What Are The Best Headphones For You?

When shopping for headphones there are lots of choices, especially if you have hearing aids. There are some things to think about, even though it’s mostly a matter of personal preference.

Headphones That go Over The Ears

While the foam-covered earpieces that came with your old Walkman are mostly a thing of the past, over-the-ear headphones have had a resurgence. They have a lot of choices in style and color, are frequently endorsed by celebrities, and can be unexpectedly pricey. And these headphones go over the entire ear blocking out noise, 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 away from your eardrum. But because the speakers are larger they are commonly capable of much higher volume. Noise cancellation can be a good thing as long as you’re not missing useful sounds like an oncoming automobile. With that being said, because they cancel out outside sound, you can often lower the volume of what you’re listening to so it’s not loud enough to injure your ears.

Earbuds

The normal earbuds are widely known for inferior sound quality, though lots 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 that were provided with the device because it most likely won’t have a headphone jack.

Earbuds also don’t cancel out noise so the downside is, you tend to turn up the sound level. Again, though it’s frequently said that earbuds are a problem because you put them in your ear so their speakers are really close to your eardrum, volume is the biggest problem.

Noise Blocking Earbuds

Many people prefer earbuds with a rounded, rubbery tip both because they’re more comfortable than normal earbuds and better at stopping outside noises. A seal that stops 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 primary problem. And if you wear hearing aids, clearly these won’t work for you.

Several pairs may have to be tested before you find headphones that are right for you. Your expectations, acoustically, will differ dependant on what kind of usage you usually give them. Listening to your music at a healthy volume and coming across headphones that assist you in doing that is the key.

How to be Certain Your Hearing is Safeguarded

How can you be sure it’s okay? 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 different apps, but studies has discovered that the accuracy of these other apps is spotty (also, for whatever reason, Android-based apps have proven to be less accurate). That prompted NIOSH to develop their own app. The app allows you to measure external noises, but sounds coming out of your device’s speakers can also be measured, this means, the actual volume of what’s going to your ears. You have to do a little work, but taking these kinds of preventative measures can help protect your ears.