If You Like Listening to Music, Consider These Tips to Safeguard Your Ears

Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related loss of hearing doesn’t only affect individuals who work in loud environments, such as construction workers or heavy metal roadies. Recreation related noise exposure can be just as harmful as work related noise exposure. What kind of exposure are we dealing with? Loud noise heard through headphones, whether it’s gaming, streaming video, music, or even an audiobook with the volume turned up.

You might not think your smartphone or tablet can go that loud. The ordinary pain threshold for human hearing is about 150 db which is in the range of these devices. This is the volume where noise starts to literally cause pain in your ears. So what’s the answer for safeguarding your hearing against volume related injury.

The volume level here is significant. A simple shorthand that’s widely recommended is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at no more than 60% for 60 minutes or less at a stretch (because the length of sound exposure matters, too).

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Music

If you have hearing aids, you’re more than likely streaming your device directly to your hearing aids, so be sure the volume is not too loud or that you’re not trying to drown out other noises with your music. And there are much healthier ways to listen to music so consult us about that as well. If you’re a musician or real music aficionado you may 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 minimize feedback and noise while maximizing some frequency to improve the quality of sound while listening to music.

How to Select The Best Headphones

If you don’t wear hearing aids, there are a lot of options for buying headphones. It might be a matter of personal preference, but there are some things you should think about there as well.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

While the foam-covered earpieces that was included with your old Walkman are generally a thing of the past, over-the-ear headphones have made a comeback. They have a lot of options in color and style, are frequently endorsed by celebrities, and can be surprisingly expensive. And unlike those little foam pads, these cover the whole ear, blocking outside sounds.

Main-stream perception 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 larger they are often capable of much louder volume. Noise cancellation can be a good thing as long as you’re not losing useful sounds like an oncoming car or truck. But on the positive side, you don’t have to contend with outside sound so you can enjoy your music at lower levels.


The standard earbuds that are included with devices such as iPhones are much maligned for their inferior sound quality, but because they come along with your phone many people still use them. Especially, with newer Apple devices, it’s just easier to use the earbuds which were provided with the device because it probably doesn’t have a headphone jack.

The drawback, besides the poor sound quality, is that basic earbuds can’t cancel outside noises, so you’re more likely to pump up the sound level. It’s generally assumed that sticking earbuds so close to your eardrum is the primary issue but it’s actually the volume.

Earbuds That Block External Sound

More comfortable than regular earbuds, models with a round rubber tip are the choice of many because they help stop outside noise. A seal that stops outside noise from getting in is formed by the rubber tip which conforms to the shape of the ear. Not to sound like a broken record, but these have the same drawbacks as the other two (it’s all about the volume), 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.

You may need to try out quite a few pairs before you find headphones that do the job. Your expectations, acoustically, will vary depending on what type of use you usually give them. Listening to your music at a healthy volume and coming across headphones that help you do that is the key.

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 get the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s free Sound Level Meter app. You can get other apps, but research has discovered that the reliability of these other apps is spotty (also, for reasons yet unknown, Android-based apps have been shown to be less accurate). That motivated NIOSH to develop their own app. The app enables you to measure outside sounds, but it’s also possible to measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, essentially, the true volume of what’s being sent to your ears. You have to put in a little effort, but putting in place these types of preventative steps can help safeguard 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.