Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Individuals who work in loud environments such as construction sites or at heavy metal concerts are not the only ones impacted by noise related loss of hearing. Leisure related noise exposure can be just as damaging as work related noise exposure. The most common kind? Music, gaming, streaming video or anything that you would listen to through headphones or earbuds.

You might not realize your smartphone or tablet can get that loud. But these devices can attain sustained volumes of over 105 dB, which is around the ordinary human pain threshold. This is the volume at which noise starts to literally hurt your ears. So what can you do to safeguard against this kind of noise-related hearing loss?

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

Make a Setting on Your Hearing Aids For Listening to Music

Make sure, if you’re wearing hearing aids, you don’t try to drown out other noises by turning your streaming music up too loud. Additionally, consult us about how to best listen to music. Hearing aids aren’t made to increase the quality of music like they do with voices so if really like music, you might have noticed this. We may be able to change the configuration to decrease noise and feedback while boosting some frequency ranges to improve the quality of sound while listening to music.

What Are The Best Headphones For You?

When choosing headphones there are lots of options, especially if you use hearing aids. There are various things to think about, even though it’s mostly a matter of personal choice.

Headphones That go Over The Ears

Over the ear headphones are becoming popular again but you probably won’t find the old foam covered ear pieces that once came with a walkman. Often unexpectedly expensive, they feature lots of color choices and celebrity endorsements, and yes, superior sound quality. And these headphones go over the entire ear limiting out noise, unlike those old foam ones.

Main-stream perception is that these are safer than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further from your eardrum. But the fact is they’re often able to reach louder volume than their smaller kin, the speakers are much larger. Also, noise-canceling will probably help you ignore the crying baby on your flight, but in other circumstances, it can block sounds you should hear (like a honking car). But on the upside, you don’t have to contend with outside noise so you can listen to your music at lower levels.


The standard earbuds that come with devices like iPhones are much maligned for their poor sound quality, but because they come with your phone a lot of people still use them. Specifically, with newer Apple phones, it’s just easier to use the earbuds that were provided with the device because it probably doesn’t have a headphone jack.

Earbuds also don’t block out noise so the drawback is, you tend to turn up the volume. Once again,, though it’s often said that earbuds are a problem because you stick them into your ear so their speakers are extremely close to your eardrum, volume is really the biggest concern.

Noise Canceling Earbuds

A lot of people opt for earbuds with a rounded, rubbery tip both because they’re more comfortable than traditional earbuds and more effective at blocking outside noises. A seal that stops outside sound from getting in 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 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 wear hearing aids, obviously these won’t work for you.

You might need to test out quite a few pairs before you find headphones that do the job. Your expectations, acoustically, will be different depending on what type of usage you usually give them. Enjoying your music at a healthy volume and finding headphones that help you do that is essential.

Don’t Cut Corners When Dealing With Your Hearing

Is it Safe, How Can I be Sure? If you use a smartphone, you can get an app for that, you can get the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s free Sound Level Meter app. There are other apps you can get, but studies has found that the reliability of these other apps is hit-and-miss (in addition, for unknown reasons, Android-based apps have proven less accurate). That prompted NIOSH to create an app of their own. You can measure external sounds using the app, but sounds coming from your device’s speakers can be measured too, so you will know precisely how much volume your ears are getting. 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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