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 impacted by noise related hearing loss. Recreation associated noise exposure can be just as dangerous as work related noise exposure. What kind of exposure are we dealing with? Music, gaming, streaming video or anything that you would listen to through earbuds or headphones.

You might be alarmed to discover that a mobile device can get that loud. The ordinary pain threshold for human hearing is roughly 150 db which is in the range of these devices. This is the volume where noise starts to literally cause pain in your ears. So what can you do to safeguard against this type of noise-related loss of hearing?

It’s significant here to think about the volume. Listen with the volume at or below 60% for no more than 60 minutes each session (how long you listen for also matters), this is called the 60/60 rule.

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Music

If you wear hearing aids, you’re more than likely streaming your mobile device right to your hearing aids, so make certain the volume is not too loud or that you’re not trying to drown out other sounds with your music. And there are better ways to listen to music so ask us about that also. If you’re a musician or real music aficionado you may have recognized that most hearing aids are programmed to sharpen the quality of voices…not necessarily music. We might be able to make adjustments to decrease feedback and noise while maximizing some frequency to better the quality of sound when listening to music.

How to Pick The Right Headphones

If you don’t have hearing aids, there are many options for purchasing headphones. There are some things to consider, even though it’s largely a matter of personal preference.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

While the foam-covered earpieces that came with your old Walkman are mostly no longer used, over-the-ear headphones have had a resurgence. They have lots of choices in color and style, are often endorsed by celebrities, and can be unexpectedly expensive. And unlike those little foam pads, these go over the whole ear, limiting outside sounds.

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 reality is they’re usually able to reach louder sound than their smaller kin, the speakers are much bigger. Noise cancellation can be a helpful thing as long as you’re not missing useful sounds like an oncoming automobile. But on the positive side, you don’t have to contend with outside noise so you can listen to your music at lower volumes.


The standard earbuds that come with devices like iPhones are known for their inferior sound quality, though lots of people still use them because hey, they were included with the phone. Plus, with newer versions that lack a headphone jack, sticking with Apple’s earbuds can simply be easier.

The drawback, aside from the poor sound quality, is that basic earbuds don’t block outside noises, so you’re more likely to crank up the sound level. It’s generally believed that placing earbuds so close to your eardrum is the primary concern but it’s really the volume.

Noise Blocking Earbuds

More comfortable than standard earbuds, models with a round rubber tip are the choice of many because they help obstruct outside sound. The rubber molds to the shape of your ear, producing a seal that stops other sounds from entering. But these earbuds can also block out sounds you need to hear and volume is still the main concern. And if you use hearing aids, clearly these won’t work for you.

Several pairs may have to be tested before you find headphones that meet your needs. Your expectations, acoustically, will be different dependant on what type of use you normally give them. Listening to your music at a safe volume and finding headphones that assist you in doing that is essential.

How to be Certain Your Hearing is Safeguarded

Is it Safe, How Can I be certain? 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 different apps you can get, but studies has found that the reliability of these other apps is hit-and-miss (additionally, for whatever reason, Android-based apps have been shown to be less precise). That prompted NIOSH to develop their own app. You can measure outside sounds with the app, but it’s also possible to measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, so you will learn precisely how much volume your ears are getting. It’s a little bit of work, but putting in place these types of preventative measures can help safeguard 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.
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