Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

People who work in loud surroundings like construction sites or at heavy metal concerts are not the only ones affected by noise related loss of hearing. It doesn’t even have to be work-related, recreation-related noise exposure can be harmful, too. The most prevalent kind? Music, gaming, streaming video or anything else that you would listen to through earbuds or headphones.

You might be alarmed to find out that a mobile device can get that loud. But these devices can achieve sustained volumes of over 105 dB, which is near the normal human pain threshold. Your ears will actually start to feel pain at this volume. So what’s the answer for safeguarding your hearing against volume related damage.

It’s significant here to think about the volume. A quick shorthand that’s widely recommended is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at or below 60% for no more than 60 minutes at a stretch (because the length of sound exposure matters, too).

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Music

Make sure, if you’re utilizing hearing aids, you don’t try to drown out other noises by turning your streaming music up too high. Also, consult us about how to best listen to music. Hearing aids aren’t designed to increase the quality of music like they do with voices so if really like music, you might have noticed this. While listening to music, we can most likely make a few modifications to help enhance the quality of sound and reduce the feedback.

How to Pick The Right Headphones

When shopping for headphones there are lots of choices, specifically if you use hearing aids. There are a few things to consider, 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 ear pieces that used to come with a walkman. Often surprisingly costly, they offer a large variety of color possibilities and celebrity endorsements, and of course, better sound quality. And these headphones go over the whole ear blocking unwanted sound, 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 because the speakers are bigger they are often capable of much higher sound level. Additionally, noise-canceling may help you ignore the crying baby on your flight, but in other circumstances, it can silence sounds you should hear (such as a honking car). That said, because they block out outside noise, you can often reduce the volume of what you’re listening to so it’s not loud enough to cause damage to your ears.


The standard earbuds that come with devices such as iPhones are much maligned for their inferior quality of sound, although lots of people still use them because hey, they were included with the phone. Especially, with newer Apple phones, it’s just easier to use the earbuds which came with the device because it most likely doesn’t have a headphone jack.

Earbuds also don’t cancel out noise so the drawback is, you have a tendency to crank up the sound level. It’s commonly thought that placing earbuds so close to your eardrum is the main problem but it’s actually the volume.

Noise Canceling Earbuds

More comfortable than ordinary earbuds, models with a round rubber tip are the choice of many because they help stop outside noise. The rubber molds to the shape of your ear, creating a seal that blocks other sounds from getting in. 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 have hearing aids.

You may need to test out quite a few pairs before you find headphones that meet your specifications. Depending on what you’re most often using them for talking on the phone, say, versus listening to music, you’ll have different acoustic expectations. Listening to your tunes at a healthy volume and coming across headphones that help you do that is the key.

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. You can get different apps, but research has discovered that the reliability of these other apps is hit-and-miss (in addition, for unknown reasons, Android-based apps have proven less reliable). That motivated NIOSH to create an app of their own. The app allows you to measure external noises, but you can also measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, so you will find out exactly how much volume your ears are getting. You have to do a little work, but putting in place these types of protective steps 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.

Medical information dates as new research comes out all the time - if you have a concern about your hearing, please call us.

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