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Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related hearing loss doesn’t only impact people who work in loud surroundings, such as construction workers or heavy metal roadies. Recreation associated noise exposure can be just as dangerous as work related noise exposure. What type of exposure are we discussing? Loud noise heard through headphones, whether it be gaming, streaming video, music, or even an audiobook with the volume cranked up.

You may be alarmed to find out that a mobile device can go that loud. The normal pain threshold for human hearing is about 150 db which is well within the range of these devices. Your ears will actually start to hurt at this volume. So what’s the plan to safeguard against this sort of noise-related loss of hearing?

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 called the 60/60 rule.

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Music

If you wear hearing aids, you’re most likely streaming your mobile device right to your hearing aids, so be sure the volume is not too loud or that you’re not trying to drown out other noises with your music. And there are much healthier ways to listen to music so ask us about that also. Hearing aids aren’t created to increase the quality of music like they do with voices so if you’re really into music, you might have discovered this. While enjoying music, we can probably make various modifications to help improve the quality of sound and reduce the feedback.

What Are The Right Headphones For You?

When purchasing headphones there are numerous options, specifically if you have hearing aids. It might be a matter of personal preference, but there are some things you will want to consider there too.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

Over the ear headphones are becoming popular again but you most likely won’t find the old foam covered ear pieces that once came with a walkman. They have lots of choices in style and color, are commonly endorsed by celebrities, and can be unexpectedly expensive. And these headphones cover the whole ear stopping unwanted sound, unlike those old foam ones.

Conventional perception is that these are safer than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further from your eardrum. But because the speakers are bigger they are usually capable of much louder sound level. Noise cancellation can be a good thing as long as you’re not losing needed sounds like an oncoming vehicle. That said, because they cancel out outside noise, you can normally reduce the volume of what you’re listening to so it’s not so loud that it will injure your hearing.

Earbuds

The normal earbuds that come with devices like iPhones are known for their inferior sound quality, but because they come with your phone lots of people still use them. In addition, with newer models that don’t have a headphone jack, sticking with Apple’s earbuds can just be easier.

Earbuds also don’t block out noise so the downside is, you tend to crank up the volume. It’s generally thought that sticking earbuds so close to your eardrum is the main concern but it’s really the volume.

Isolating or Occluding Earbuds

More comfortable than ordinary earbuds, models with a round rubber tip are the choice of many because they help obstruct outside noise. 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 biggest concern. Obviously, these won’t work for you if you wear hearing aids.

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

Don’t Cut Corners When Dealing With Your Hearing

How can you be sure it’s safe? There’s an app for that…If you have a smartphone, you can get the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s free Sound Level Meter app. You can get different apps, but studies has found that the reliability of these other apps is hit-and-miss (additionally, for unknown reasons, Android-based apps have proven less reliable). That motivated NIOSH to develop an app of their own. You can measure external noise using the app, but sounds coming from your device’s speakers can also be measured, so you will learn precisely how much volume your ears are subjected to. You have to do a little work, but putting in place these types of preventative steps can help protect your hearing.

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