If You Love Listening to Music, Think About These Tips to Protect Your Ears

Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

People who work in loud settings such as construction sites or at heavy metal concerts are not the only ones impacted by noise related loss of hearing. Leisure associated noise exposure can be just as damaging as work related noise exposure. The most prevalent kind? Music, gaming, streaming video or anything else that you would listen to through headphones or earbuds.

You might be surprised to learn that a mobile device can go that loud. The average pain threshold for human hearing is around 150 db which is well within the range of these devices. Your ears will literally start to hurt at this volume. So what’s the answer for safeguarding your hearing against volume related injury.

The volume level here is significant. Listen with the volume at no more than 60% for 60 minutes or less 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

If you use hearing aids, you’re likely streaming your mobile device right to your hearing aids, so be sure the volume is not too loud or that you’re not attempting to drown out other noises with your music. And there are more appropriate ways to listen to music so consult us about that as well. Hearing aids aren’t designed to make music clearer like they do with voices so if really like music, you may have observed this. While enjoying music, we can most likely make some adjustments to help enhance the quality of sound and lessen the feedback.

What Are The Right Headphones For You?

If you don’t have hearing aids, there are lots of options for buying headphones. There are various things to consider, although it’s largely a matter of personal choice.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

While the foam-covered speakers that was included with your old Walkman are basically no longer used, over-the-ear headphones have had a resurgence. Often unexpectedly high-priced, they offer lots of color options and celebrity endorsements, and of course, exceptional sound quality. And these headphones go over the entire ear stopping out noise, unlike those old foam ones.

Main-stream 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 often capable of much higher volume. Additionally, noise-canceling may help you ignore the crying baby on your flight, but in other situations, it can silence sounds you need to hear (like a car honking). But on the positive side, you won’t need to compete with outside sound so you can listen to your music at lower volumes.


The standard earbuds are well known for poor sound quality, but because they come with your phone many people still use them. Particularly, with newer Apple devices, it’s just easier to use the earbuds which were provided with the device because it most likely doesn’t have a headphone jack.

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

Isolating or Occluding Earbuds

Many people prefer earbuds with a rounded, rubbery tip both because they’re more comfortable than traditional earbuds and better at blocking outside sounds. The rubber conforms to the shape of your ear, producing a seal that stops other noises from entering. Not to sound like a broken record, but these have the same downsides as the other two (volume is the main problem), as well as carrying the same caution as over-the-ear headphones (they can block out warning sounds). And if you wear hearing aids, obviously these won’t work for you.

A number of pairs will probably have to be tested before you find headphones that are what you are looking for. Depending on what you’re most often using them for say talking on the phone, as opposed to listening to music, you’ll have unique acoustic requirements. Enjoying your tunes at a healthy volume and coming across headphones that assist you in doing that is essential.

Don’t Cut Corners When it Comes to Your Hearing

How can you be certain it’s okay? There’s an app for that…If you have a smartphone, 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 found that the dependability of these other apps is spotty (in addition, for reasons yet unknown, Android-based apps have proven less reliable). That prompted NIOSH to create an app of their own. The app allows you to measure outside noises, but you can also measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, so you will find out exactly how much volume your ears are getting. It’s a little bit of effort, but taking these types of preventative steps can help protect 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.