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Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Individuals who work in loud settings like construction sites or at heavy metal concerts are not the only ones impacted by noise related loss of hearing. It doesn’t even need to be work-related, recreation-related noise exposure can be damaging, also. What kind of exposure are we dealing with? Loud sounds heard through headphones, whether it’s music, gaming, streaming video, or even an audiobook with the volume cranked up.

You might not believe your smartphone or tablet can go that loud. The normal pain threshold for human hearing is close to 150 db which is in the range of these devices. Your ears will actually start to hurt at this volume. So what’s the plan to safeguard against this type of noise-related loss of hearing?

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

Make a Setting on Your Hearing Aids For Listening to Music

If you have hearing aids, you’re likely streaming your device right to your hearing aids, so be sure the volume is not too loud or that you’re not trying to drown out other sounds with your music. Also, consult us about how to best listen to music. If you’re a musician or someone who loves music you may have noticed that most hearing aids are created to sharpen the clarity of voices…not necessarily music. We may be able to make adjustments to minimize noise and feedback while increasing some frequency to improve the quality of sound when listening to music.

How to Pick The Best Headphones

When choosing headphones there are numerous choices, specifically if you have hearing aids. It may be a matter of personal preference, 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 find the old foam covered speakers that once came with a walkman. Often unexpectedly expensive, they offer a large variety of color possibilities and celebrity endorsements, and of course, 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 safer than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further away from your eardrum. But the truth is they’re frequently capable of much louder sound than their smaller kin, the speakers are a lot larger. Noise cancellation can be a helpful thing as long as you’re not missing out on important sounds like an oncoming car. That said, because they cancel out outside noise, you can often reduce the volume of what you’re listening to so it’s not loud enough to injure your hearing.


The standard earbuds are well known for poor sound quality, but because they come with your phone lots of people still use them. Specifically, with newer Apple phones, it’s just easier to use the earbuds which were provided with the device because it most likely doesn’t have a headphone jack.

Earbuds also don’t block out sound so the drawback is, you have a tendency to crank up the volume. It’s generally thought that placing earbuds so close to your eardrum is the primary problem but it’s really the volume.

Earbuds That Block External Sound

A lot of people buy earbuds with a rounded, rubbery tip both because they’re more comfortable than traditional earbuds and better at stopping outside sounds. A seal that blocks outside sound from entering is formed by the rubber tip which molds to the shape of the ear. But these earbuds can also block out sounds you might need to hear and volume is still the biggest concern. Obviously, these won’t work for you if you wear hearing aids.

Several pairs might have to be evaluated before you find headphones that work for you. Your expectations, acoustically, will be different dependant on what kind of usage you usually give them. Listening to your tunes at a safe volume and coming across headphones that help you do that is the key.

Don’t Cut Corners When it Comes to Your Hearing

Is it Safe, How Can I be certain? If you own 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 found that the reliability of these other apps is spotty (additionally, for whatever reason, Android-based apps have proven to be less precise). That prompted NIOSH to develop an app of their own. The app lets you measure outside noises, but sounds coming out of your device’s speakers can be measured too, so you will know precisely how much volume your ears are getting. You have to put in a little effort, but taking these types of preventative steps can help safeguard 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.