Hearing Health Blog

Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related hearing loss doesn’t just impact 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 dangerous, too. The most prevalent type? Loud noise heard through headphones, whether it be music, gaming, streaming video, or even an audiobook with the volume turned up.

You may be surprised to discover that a mobile device can go that loud. The average 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 solution for protecting your ears against volume related damage.

The volume level here is important. A simple shorthand that’s widely recommended is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at or below 60% for 60 minutes or less at a stretch (because how long you listen for matters, too).

Create a Setting on Your Hearing Aids For Listening to Music

If you have hearing aids, you’re likely streaming your mobile device directly to your hearing aids, so make sure the volume is not too high or that you’re not attempting 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 may have observed this. While listening to music, we can most likely make a few modifications to help improve the quality of sound and reduce the feedback.

What Are The Right Headphones For You?

If you don’t have hearing aids, there are lots of options for shopping for headphones. It might be a matter of personal choice, but there are some things you should consider there too.

Headphones That go Over The Ears

While the foam-covered earpieces that came with your old Walkman are basically a thing of the past, over-the-ear headphones have made a comeback. They have a lot of options in color and style, are frequently endorsed by celebrities, and can be unexpectedly pricey. And unlike those little foam pads, these go over the whole ear, blocking outside sounds.

Conventional wisdom is that these are safer than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further away from your eardrum. But because the speakers are bigger they are often capable of much louder volume. Noise cancellation can be a helpful thing as long as you’re not missing needed sounds such as an oncoming car. That said, because they cancel out outside sound, you can typically lower the volume of what you’re listening to so it’s not so loud that it will hurt your ears.


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

Earbuds also don’t cancel out sound so the drawback is, you tend to crank up the volume. It’s commonly believed that placing earbuds so close to your eardrum is the main problem but it’s actually the volume.

Isolating or Occluding Earbuds

A lot of people buy earbuds with a rounded, rubbery tip both because they’re more comfy than normal earbuds and better at stopping outside sounds. A seal that stops outside noise from entering is formed by the rubber tip which conforms to the shape of the ear. Not to sound like a broken record, but these types of earbuds have the same downsides as the other two (it’s all about the volume), as well as carrying the same caution as over-the-ear headphones (they can block out warning sounds). Obviously, these won’t work for you if you have hearing aids.

You may have to try out more than one pair before you find headphones that are appropriate for you. Your expectations, acoustically, will differ dependant on what type of usage you normally give them. The essential thing is to find headphones that make it comfortable for you to enjoy at a safe volume.

How to Make Certain Your Hearing is Safeguarded

Is it Safe, How Can I be certain? There’s an app for that…If you use a smartphone, you can download 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 reliability of these other apps is spotty (also, for reasons yet unknown, Android-based apps have been shown less reliable). That motivated NIOSH to develop their own app. You can measure outside noise with the app, but sounds coming from your device’s speakers can be measured too, in other words, the actual volume of what’s being sent to your ears. You have to put in a little effort, but taking these kinds of protective measures can help protect 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.
Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss! Call Us