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Teenage boy listening to music through headphones

If you believe that hearing loss only happens to seniors, you will probably be shocked to learn that today 1 out of every 5 teens has some extent of hearing loss in the US. Furthermore, 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 attention of the World Health Organization, who in response released a report cautioning us that 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are at risk for hearing loss from dangerous listening habits.

Those unsafe practices include participating in noisy sporting events and concerts without hearing protection, along with the unsafe use of earphones.

But it’s the use of earphones that could very well be the most significant threat.

Consider how often we all listen to music since it became mobile. We listen in the car, on the job, at the gym, and at home. We listen while out for a stroll and even while falling asleep. We can integrate music into almost every aspect of our lives.

That level of exposure—if you’re not careful—can slowly and silently steal your hearing at a young age, resulting in hearing aids later in life.

And given that no one’s prepared to forfeit music, we have to determine other ways to protect our hearing. Fortunately, there are simple precautions we can all take.

The following are three vital safety tips you can use to protect your hearing without compromising your music.

1. Limit the 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 level of your music.

Instead, a useful general guideline is to keep your music player volume at no louder than 60 percent of the maximum volume. Any higher and you’ll likely be above the 85-decibel limit.

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

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

2. Limit the Time

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

Which brings us to the next rule of thumb: the 60/60 rule. We already suggested that you keep your MP3 player volume at 60 percent of its maximum 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 a great deal more damaging than four half-hour intervals dispersed throughout the day.

3. Pick the Right Headphones

The reason the majority of us have difficulty keeping our music player volume at less than 60 percent of its max is a consequence of background noise. As environmental noise increases, like in a busy gym, we have to compensate by boosting the music volume.

The solution to this is the use of noise-cancelling headphones. If background noise is mitigated, sound volume can be reduced, and high-fidelity music can be enjoyed at lower volumes.

Lower-quality earbuds, on the contrary, have the double disadvantage of being more closely to your eardrum and being incapable of repressing background noise. The quality of sound is compromised as well, and combined with the distracting environmental sound, increasing the volume is the only method 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 functionality. That way, you can adhere to the 60/60 rule without compromising the quality of your music and, more significantly, your hearing down the road.