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Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related loss of hearing doesn’t only affect individuals who work in loud settings, like construction workers or heavy metal roadies. It doesn’t even have to be work-related, leisure-related noise exposure can be damaging, too. What type of exposure are we talking about? Loud noise heard through headphones, whether it be music, gaming, streaming video, or even an audiobook with the volume turned up.

You may not realize your smartphone or tablet can get that loud. The average pain threshold for human hearing is roughly 150 db which is in the range of these devices. Your ears will literally start to feel pain at this volume. So what can you do to safeguard against this type of noise-related loss of hearing?

The volume level here is significant. Listen with the volume at no more than 60% for 60 minutes or less at a stretch (how long you listen for also makes a difference), this is called the 60/60 rule.

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Listening to Music

Be sure, if you’re utilizing hearing aids, you don’t attempt to drown out other noises by turning your streaming music up too loud. Also, consult us about how to best listen to music. Hearing aids aren’t designed to make music clearer like they do with voices so if really like music, you may have noticed this. While enjoying music, we can most likely make some adjustments to help better the sound quality and reduce the feedback.

How to Select The Right Headphones

When buying headphones there are numerous choices, particularly if you wear hearing aids. It may be a matter of personal choice, but there are some things you should consider there as well.

Headphones That go Over The Ears

While the foam-covered speakers that came with your old Walkman are generally a thing of the past, over-the-ear headphones have had a resurgence. Often shockingly high-priced, they provide a large variety of color options and celebrity endorsements, and yes, exceptional sound quality. And these headphones cover the entire ear limiting out noise, unlike those old foam ones.

Conventional perception 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 normally capable of much louder sound level. Additionally, noise-canceling will probably help you ignore the crying baby on your flight, but in other circumstances, it can block sounds you should hear (such as a honking car). But on the positive side, you don’t need to compete with outside sound so you can enjoy your music at lower levels.


The normal earbuds are widely known for poor sound quality, yet a lot of people still use them because hey, they were included with the phone. In addition, with newer versions that lack a headphone jack, staying with Apple’s earbuds can just be easier.

The downside, besides the poor sound quality, is that basic earbuds don’t cancel outside sounds, so you’re more likely to pump up the sound level. It’s generally believed that placing earbuds so close to your eardrum is the primary concern but it’s actually the volume.

Noise Canceling Earbuds

Lots of people choose earbuds with a rounded, rubbery tip both because they’re more comfy than standard earbuds and more effective at stopping outside sounds. The rubber molds to the shape of your ear, creating a seal that stops other noises from entering. But these earbuds can also block out noises you need to hear and loud volume is still the main concern. Needless to say, these won’t work for you if you wear hearing aids.

You might need to check out more than one pair before you find headphones that meet your requirements. Depending on what you regularly use them for say talking on the phone, versus listening to music, you’ll have different acoustic expectations. Listening to your music at a healthy volume and finding headphones that assist you in doing that is essential.

Don’t Cut Corners When Dealing With Your Hearing

How can you be certain it’s safe? 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 dependability of these other apps is hit-and-miss (also, for reasons yet unknown, Android-based apps have proven less reliable). That prompted NIOSH to develop an app of their own. The app allows you to measure outside noises, but you can also measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, so you will learn exactly how much volume your ears are subjected to. You have to do a little work, but putting in place these kinds of preventative steps can help safeguard 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.