Love Music? Protect Your Ears With These Guidelines

Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related loss of hearing doesn’t only impact people who work in loud environments, such as construction workers or heavy metal roadies. Recreation associated noise exposure can be just as dangerous as work related noise exposure. The most prevalent type? Loud noise heard through headphones, whether it be music, gaming, streaming video, or even an audiobook with the volume turned up.

You may be alarmed to discover that a mobile device can get that loud. The normal pain threshold for human hearing is roughly 150 db which is in the range of these devices. Your ears will literally start to hurt at this volume. So what’s the plan to protect against this sort of noise-related loss of hearing?

It’s important here to think about the volume. An easy shorthand that’s widely recommended is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at no more than 60% for 60 minutes or less in a single session (because the length of sound exposure matters, too).

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Listening to Music

Be certain, if you’re wearing hearing aids, you don’t try to drown out other sounds by turning your streaming music up too loud. In addition, consult us about how best to listen to music. Hearing aids aren’t made to increase the quality of music like they do with voices so if you’re really into music, you may have discovered this. While listening to music, we can probably make various modifications to help better the quality of sound and minimize the feedback.

How to Choose The Right Headphones

When buying headphones there are numerous choices, particularly if you wear hearing aids. There are some things to think about, even though it’s largely a matter of personal preference.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

Over the ear headphones are becoming popular again but you probably won’t see the old foam covered speakers that once came with a walkman. Often shockingly costly, they offer lots of color choices and celebrity endorsements, and yes, better sound quality. And unlike those little foam pads, these go over the whole ear, limiting outside sounds.

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 bigger they are often capable of much higher volume. Noise cancellation can be a helpful thing as long as you’re not missing needed sounds such as an oncoming car or truck. But on the upside, you won’t need to compete with outside noise so you can enjoy your music at lower volumes.


The normal earbuds that are included with devices such as iPhones are much maligned for their inferior sound quality, even though a lot of people still use them because hey, they were included with the phone. 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 have a tendency to turn up the volume. It’s generally believed that placing earbuds so close to your eardrum is the main issue but it’s really the volume.

Earbuds That Block Outside Sound

More comfortable than regular earbuds, models with a round rubber tip are the choice of many people because they help block outside sound. A seal that blocks outside noise from entering is formed by the rubber tip which conforms to the shape of the ear. Not to sound like a broken record, but these have the same disadvantages 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). Obviously, these won’t work for you if you wear hearing aids.

Several pairs may need to be tested before you find headphones that are what you are looking for. Your expectations, acoustically, will be different depending on what type of use you normally give them. Enjoying your tunes at a safe volume and coming across headphones that assist you in doing that is the key.

Don’t Cut Corners When it Comes to Your Hearing

How can you be sure it’s safe? There’s an app for that…If you have a smartphone, you can download 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 accuracy of these other apps is hit-and-miss (additionally, for reasons yet unknown, Android-based apps have been shown less precise). That prompted NIOSH to develop an app of their own. The app lets you measure external sounds, but sounds coming from your device’s speakers can also be measured, in other words, the true volume of what’s being sent to your ears. You have to do a little work, but taking these kinds of preventative measures can help protect 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.


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