Hearing Health Blog

Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Individuals who work in loud surroundings such as construction sites or at heavy metal concerts are not the only ones affected by noise related hearing loss. It doesn’t even need to be work-related, leisure-related noise exposure can be damaging, also. The most common kind? Loud sounds heard through headphones, whether it’s 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. The typical pain threshold for human hearing is around 150 db which is well within the range of these devices. Your ears will actually start to feel pain at this volume. So what’s the plan to safeguard against this kind of noise-related hearing loss?

The volume level here is significant. Listen with the volume at or below 60% for 60 minutes or less each session (how long you listen for also matters), this is known as the 60/60 rule.

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Music

If you have hearing aids, you’re more than likely streaming your mobile device right to your hearing aids, so make sure the volume is not too high or that you’re not trying to drown out other sounds with your music. And there are more appropriate ways to listen to music so consult us about that also. Hearing aids aren’t created to make music clearer like they do with voices so if you’re really into music, you might have noticed this. We may be able to make adjustments to decrease noise and feedback while increasing some frequency ranges to enhance the quality of sound while listening to music.

How to Pick The Best Headphones

When getting headphones there are numerous choices, especially if you have hearing aids. It might be a matter of personal choice, 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 see the old foam covered ear pieces that once came with a walkman. They have a lot of options in color and style, are frequently endorsed by celebrities, and can be surprisingly expensive. And these headphones go over the whole ear stopping unwanted sound, unlike those old foam ones.

Conventional wisdom is that these are less dangerous than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further from your eardrum. But the fact is they’re frequently capable of much louder sound than the smaller kind, the speakers are a lot larger. Additionally, noise-canceling might help you ignore the crying baby on your flight, but in other scenarios, it can block sounds you should hear (like a car honking). But on the upside, you won’t have to contend with outside sound so you can enjoy your music at lower levels.


The standard earbuds are widely recognized for poor quality of sound, but because they come along with your phone lots of people still use them. Moreover, with newer models that don’t have a headphone jack, sticking with Apple’s earbuds can simply be easier.

Earbuds also don’t cancel out sound so the drawback is, you have a tendency to turn up the volume. Again, though it’s often said that earbuds are problematic because you stick them into your ear so their speakers are extremely close to your eardrum, actually volume is really the biggest issue.

Noise Blocking Earbuds

More comfortable than standard earbuds, models that have a round rubber tip are the choice of many people because they help obstruct outside sound. The rubber conforms to the shape of your ear, producing a seal that blocks other noises from entering. But these earbuds can also block out sounds you might need to hear and volume is still the number one problem. Obviously, these won’t work for you if you have hearing aids.

You might need to test out more than one pair before you find headphones that meet your requirements. Depending on what you regularly use them for talking on the phone, say, versus listening to music, you’ll have different acoustic requirements. The essential thing is to seek out headphones that make it comfortable for you to listen at a safe volume.

Don’t Cut Corners When it Comes to Your Hearing

How can you be sure it’s okay? If you own 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 other apps, but studies has discovered that the accuracy of these other apps is hit-and-miss (also, for unknown reasons, Android-based apps have been shown less accurate). That motivated NIOSH to develop their own app. The app allows you to measure external noises, but you can also measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, in other words, the true volume of what’s being sent to your ears. It’s a little bit of effort, but putting in place these kinds of protective steps can help safeguard your ears.

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