Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Individuals who work in loud surroundings like construction sites or at heavy metal concerts are not the only people affected by noise related hearing loss. Leisure related noise exposure can be just as harmful as work related noise exposure. The most common kind? Loud noise heard through headphones, whether it be gaming, streaming video, music, or even an audiobook with the volume turned up.

You may not believe your smartphone or tablet can go that loud. But these devices can attain sustained volumes of over 105 dB, which is close to the normal human threshold for pain. Your ears will actually start to hurt at this volume. So what’s the answer for safeguarding your hearing against volume related damage.

It’s important here to think about the volume. Listen with the volume at no more than 60% for no more than 60 minutes each session (how long you listen for also matters), this is known as the 60/60 rule.

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Listening to Music

Be sure, if you’re wearing hearing aids, you don’t attempt to drown out other sounds by cranking your streaming music up too high. And there are better ways to listen to music so consult us about that also. If you’re a musician or real music aficionado you might have noticed that most hearing aids are developed to improve the quality of voices…not necessarily music. We might be able to make adjustments to reduce noise and feedback while increasing some frequency to enhance the quality of sound when listening to music.

How to Pick The Best Headphones

When picking out headphones there are many options, especially if you have hearing aids. There are some things to consider, even though it’s largely a matter of personal choice.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

Over the ear headphones are becoming popular again but you most likely won’t see the old foam covered ear pieces that once came with a walkman. Often unexpectedly costly, they offer a large variety of color options and celebrity endorsements, and of course, exceptional sound quality. And unlike those little foam pads, these cover the whole ear, blocking outside noises.

Conventional wisdom is that these are less dangerous than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further away from your eardrum. But because the speakers are bigger they are commonly capable of much higher sound level. Also, noise-canceling could possibly help you ignore the crying baby on your flight, but in other situations, it can block sounds you should hear (like a car honking). But on the upside, you don’t need to contend with outside noise so you can enjoy your music at lower levels.


The normal earbuds that are included with devices like iPhones are known for their poor quality of sound, but because they come with your phone many people still use them. Plus, with newer versions that no longer have a headphone jack, staying with Apple’s earbuds can just be easier.

The drawback, aside from the inferior sound quality, is that basic earbuds can’t cancel outside sounds, so that it’s more likely that you will pump up the sound level. It’s commonly believed that sticking earbuds so close to your eardrum is the main concern but it’s really the volume.

Isolating or Occluding Earbuds

Many people buy earbuds with a rounded, rubbery tip both because they’re more comfortable than traditional earbuds and better at blocking outside sounds. A seal that stops outside noise from getting in is formed by the rubber tip which molds to the shape of the ear. But these earbuds can also block out sounds you need to hear and volume is still the primary issue. And if you use hearing aids, clearly these won’t work for you.

Several pairs will probably need to be tested before you find headphones that work for you. Your expectations, acoustically, will differ dependant on what kind of use you usually give them. Listening to your tunes at a safe volume and coming across headphones that assist you in doing that is essential.

How to Make Sure You’re Hearing is Safeguarded

Is it Safe, How Can I be certain? 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. There are other apps out there, but studies has discovered that the reliability of these other apps is hit-and-miss (additionally, for unknown reasons, Android-based apps have proven less accurate). That prompted NIOSH to create their own app. The app enables you to measure external sounds, but sounds coming from your device’s speakers can be measured too, this means, the true volume of what’s being sent to your ears. It’s a little bit of effort, but putting in place these kinds of preventative measures can help safeguard your ears.