Headphone Safety 101: Tips to Protect Your Hearing

Teenage boy listening to music through headphones

If you suspect hearing loss only happens to seniors, you will probably be shocked to learn that today 1 out of every 5 teenagers has some extent of hearing loss in the US. Additionally, the rate of hearing loss in teens is 30 percent higher than it was in the 1980s and 1990s.

It should come as no great surprise then that this has caught the notice of the World Health Organization, who in answer released a report warning us that 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are at risk for hearing loss from harmful listening practices.

Those dangerous habits include participating in noisy sporting events and concerts without earplugs, along with the unsafe use of earphones.

But it’s the use of headphones that could very well be the biggest threat.

Bear in mind how frequently we all listen to music since it became mobile. We listen in the car, at work, at the gym, and at home. We listen while out for a stroll and even while drifting off to sleep. We can incorporate music into nearly every aspect of our lives.

That amount of exposure—if you’re not cautious—can gradually and silently steal your hearing at an early age, leading to hearing aids down the road.

And given that no one’s prepared to eliminate music, we have to find other ways to safeguard our hearing. Thankfully, there are simple safeguards we can all take.

Here are three important safety tips you can make use of to preserve your hearing without sacrificing your music.

1. Limit Volume

Any sound louder than 85 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss, but you don’t need to buy yourself a sound meter to measure the decibel output of your music.

Instead, a good rule of thumb is to keep your music player volume at no more than 60 percent of the max volume. Any higher and you’ll most likely be above the 85-decibel ceiling.

In fact, at their loudest, MP3 players can generate more than 105 decibels. And since the decibel scale, like the Richter scale, is logarithmic, 105 decibels is approximately 100 times as intense as 85.

An additional tip: normal conversation registers at about 60 decibels. Therefore, if while listening to music you have to raise your voice when speaking to someone, that’s a good signal that you should turn down the volume.

2. Limit Time

Hearing injury is not only a function of volume; it’s also a function of time. The longer you subject your ears to loud sounds, the greater the injury can be.

Which brings us to the next general rule: the 60/60 rule. We previously suggested that you keep your MP3 player volume at 60 percent of its max volume. The other component is making sure that you limit the listening time to under 60 minutes a day at this volume. And bear in mind that lower volumes can handle longer listening times.

Taking regular rest breaks from the sound is also crucial, as 60 decibels uninterrupted for two hours can be far more damaging than four half-hour intervals dispersed throughout the day.

3. Select the Right Headphones

The reason most of us have a hard time keeping our music player volume at under 60 percent of its max is a consequence of background noise. As surrounding noise increases, like in a busy fitness center, we have to compensate by boosting the music volume.

The remedy to this is the usage of noise-cancelling headphones. If background noise is lessened, sound volume can be limited, and high-fidelity music can be appreciated at lower volumes.

Lower-quality earbuds, on the other hand, have the double disadvantage of sitting closer to your eardrum and being incapable of controlling background noise. The quality of sound is lower as well, and combined with the distracting environmental sound, increasing the volume is the only way to compensate.

The bottom line: it’s truly worth the money to spend money on a pair of top quality headphones, preferably ones that have noise-cancelling capability. That way, you can adhere to the 60/60 rule without sacrificing the quality of your music and, more significantly, your hearing down the road.

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.