Hearing Associates of Libertyville, IL

Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

People who work in loud environments like construction sites or at heavy metal concerts are not the only ones affected by noise related loss of hearing. It doesn’t even need to be work-related, leisure-related noise exposure can be harmful, too. The most common type? Loud noise heard through headphones, whether it be gaming, streaming video, music, or even an audiobook with the volume turned up.

You might not believe your smartphone or tablet can go that loud. But these devices can achieve sustained volumes of over 105 dB, which is close to the average human threshold for pain. Your ears will literally start to hurt at this volume. So what’s the plan to safeguard against this type of noise-related loss of hearing?

The volume level here is important. Listen with the volume at or below 60% for no more than 60 minutes each session (how long you listen for also matters), this is called the 60/60 rule.

Make a Setting on Your Hearing Aids For Listening to Music

If you wear hearing aids, you’re most likely streaming your 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 ask 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 various modifications to help improve the sound quality and decrease the feedback.

What Are The Best Headphones For You?

If you don’t own hearing aids, there are lots of choices for purchasing headphones. It may be a matter of personal preference, but there are some things you should think about there too.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

Over the ear headphones are becoming popular again but you most likely won’t find the old foam covered ear pieces that used to come with a walkman. Often surprisingly expensive, they offer a large variety of color choices and celebrity endorsements, and of course, superior sound quality. And these headphones go over the whole ear stopping out noise, unlike those old foam ones.

Conventional perception is that these are less dangerous 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 louder sound level. In addition, noise-canceling could possibly help you ignore the crying baby on your flight, but in other scenarios, 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 enjoy your music at lower levels.


The standard earbuds are widely known for inferior sound quality, 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 which came with the device because it probably doesn’t have a headphone jack.

Earbuds also don’t block out noise so the drawback is, you tend to crank up the sound level. Again, though it’s often said that earbuds are problematic because you put them in your ear so their speakers are very close to your eardrum, actually volume is really the biggest issue.

Noise Blocking Earbuds

More comfortable than ordinary earbuds, models that have a round rubber tip are the choice of many because they help block outside sound. A seal that stops outside noise from getting in is formed by the rubber tip which conforms to the shape of the ear. But these earbuds can also block out sounds you need to hear and loud volume is still the number one issue. Obviously, these won’t work for you if you have hearing aids.

You may need to try out quite a few pairs before you find headphones that work for you. Your expectations, acoustically, will differ depending on what kind of usage you usually give them. The relevant thing is to seek out headphones that make it comfortable for you to enjoy at a safe sound level.

How to Make Certain Your Hearing is Protected

Is it Safe, How Can I be certain? There’s an app for that…If you use a smartphone, you can download the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s free Sound Level Meter app. You can get other apps, but research has found that the accuracy of these other apps is spotty (additionally, for unknown reasons, Android-based apps have been shown less accurate). That prompted NIOSH to create an app of their own. You can measure external sounds with the app, but sounds coming out of your device’s speakers can be measured too, so you will find out exactly how much volume your ears are getting. It’s a little bit of effort, but putting in place these types of preventative steps can help protect your hearing.

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.
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