Noise-related loss of hearing doesn’t just impact people who work in loud environments, like construction workers or heavy metal roadies. It doesn’t even need to be work-related, recreation-related noise exposure can be damaging, too. What kind of exposure are we discussing? Loud noise heard through headphones, whether it’s music, gaming, streaming video, or even an audiobook with the volume cranked up.
You might not realize your smartphone or tablet can get that loud. The normal pain threshold for human hearing is about 150 db which is in the range of these devices. Your ears will literally start to hurt at this volume. So what’s the answer for protecting your ears against volume related damage.
The volume level here is significant. Listen with the volume at no more than 60% for no more than 60 minutes each session (how long you listen for also makes a difference), this is known as the 60/60 rule.
Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Listening to Music
If you use hearing aids, you’re likely streaming your device directly to your hearing aids, so make certain the volume is not too high or that you’re not trying to drown out other sounds with your music. And there are better ways to listen to music so consult us about that as well. If you’re a musician or someone who loves music you may have recognized that most hearing aids are programmed to sharpen the clarity of voices…not necessarily music. We may be able to make adjustments to decrease noise and feedback while maximizing some frequency ranges to enhance the quality of sound while listening to music.
How to Choose The Best Headphones
When shopping for headphones there are lots of options, specifically if you use hearing aids. There are a few things to consider, although it’s generally a matter of personal preference.
Headphones That go Over The Ears
While the foam-covered speakers that came with your old Walkman are mostly a thing of the past, over-the-ear headphones have had a resurgence. Often unexpectedly expensive, they offer a large variety of color options and celebrity endorsements, and yes, exceptional sound quality. And unlike those little foam pads, these cover the whole ear, blocking outside sounds.
Conventional perception is that these are safer 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 volume than their smaller kin, the speakers are much bigger. In addition, 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 honking car). But on the upside, you won’t need to contend with outside sound so you can listen to your music at lower volumes.
The normal earbuds are well known for poor sound quality, though lots of people still use them because hey, they were included with the phone. Especially, with newer Apple devices, it’s simply easier to use the earbuds which were provided with the device because it most likely won’t have a headphone jack.
Earbuds also don’t block out sound so the drawback is, you tend to turn up the sound level. Again, though it’s commonly said that earbuds are problematic because you stick them in your ear so their speakers are extremely close to your eardrum, volume is really the biggest issue.
Earbuds That Block External Noise
Many people opt for earbuds with a rounded, rubbery tip both because they’re more comfortable than normal earbuds and better at blocking outside sounds. The rubber conforms to the shape of your ear, producing a seal that stops other sounds from getting in. But these earbuds can also block out sounds you might need to hear and loud volume is still the primary issue. And if you wear hearing aids, obviously these won’t work for you.
You might need to check out quite a few pairs before you find headphones that work for you. Your expectations, acoustically, will differ dependant on what kind of usage you usually give them. Listening to your tunes at a healthy volume and coming across headphones that assist you in doing that is essential.
Don’t Cut Corners When it Comes to Your Hearing
Is it Safe, How Can I be Sure? 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 research has found that the accuracy of these other apps is hit-and-miss (also, for whatever reason, Android-based apps have been shown less precise). That motivated NIOSH to create their own app. You can measure external sounds using the app, but sounds coming from your device’s speakers can also be measured, this means, the actual volume of what’s being sent to your ears. You have to put in a little effort, but taking these kinds of preventative steps can help safeguard your hearing.