Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related hearing loss doesn’t just impact people who work in loud surroundings, like construction workers or heavy metal roadies. Recreation related noise exposure can be just as dangerous as work related noise exposure. What type of exposure are we discussing? Music, gaming, streaming video or anything else that you would listen to through earbuds or headphones.

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

It’s important here to think about the volume. A quick shorthand that’s widely recommended is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at no more than 60% for 60 minutes or less in a single session (because how long you listen for matters, too).

Make a Setting on Your Hearing Aids For Listening to Music

Make certain, if you’re utilizing hearing aids, you don’t attempt to drown out other sounds by cranking your streaming music up too loud. And there are much healthier ways to listen to music so consult us about that also. If you’re a musician or someone who loves music you may have recognized that most hearing aids are created to sharpen the clarity of voices…not necessarily music. We might be able to make adjustments to lessen noise and feedback while increasing some frequency to better the quality of sound while listening to music.

What Are The Best Headphones For You?

When shopping for headphones there are numerous options, specifically if you use hearing aids. It may be a matter of personal preference, but there are some things you should consider there too.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

Over the ear headphones are becoming popular again but you probably won’t find the old foam covered speakers that used to come with a walkman. They have a lot of choices in style and color, are commonly endorsed by celebrities, and can be unexpectedly costly. And unlike those little foam pads, these cover the whole ear, stopping outside sounds.

Main-stream wisdom 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 larger they are often capable of much higher sound level. Additionally, noise-canceling might help you ignore the crying baby on your flight, but in other situations, it can block sounds you need to hear (like a honking car). But on the upside, you don’t need to compete with outside sound so you can listen to your music at lower levels.


The standard earbuds are well known for inferior quality of sound, but because they come along with your phone many people still use them. Especially, with newer Apple devices, it’s simply easier to use the earbuds that were provided with the device because it probably doesn’t have a headphone jack.

The downside, in addition to the inferior sound quality, is that basic earbuds don’t block outside noises, so that it’s more likely that you will crank up the sound level. It’s generally assumed that placing earbuds so close to your eardrum is the primary issue but it’s actually the volume.

Earbuds That Block External Noise

More comfortable than standard earbuds, models that have a round rubber tip are the choice of many because they help stop outside noise. A seal that blocks outside sound from entering is formed by the rubber tip which molds to the shape of the ear. Not to sound like a broken record, but these have the same disadvantages 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). And if you wear hearing aids, clearly these won’t work for you.

You might need to try out quite a few pairs before you find headphones that do the job. Your expectations, acoustically, will be different depending on what type of use you usually give them. Enjoying your tunes at a safe volume and finding headphones that assist you in doing that is the key.

Don’t Cut Corners When it Comes to Your Hearing

How can you be sure it’s safe? If you use a smartphone, you can get an app for that, you can download the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s free Sound Level Meter app. You can get different apps, but studies has discovered that the accuracy of these other apps is hit-and-miss (in addition, for whatever reason, Android-based apps have been shown less reliable). That motivated NIOSH to create an app of their own. You can measure external sounds using the app, but sounds coming out of 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 types of preventative measures 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.