HEARING TIPS

Safe Listening Practices for Earphones

Teenage boy listening to music through headphones

If you suspect hearing loss only happens to older people, you might be shocked to discover that today 1 out of every 5 teenagers has some extent of hearing loss in the United States. In addition, the rate of hearing loss in teenagers is 30 percent higher than it was in the 1980s and 1990s.

It should come as no real surprise then that this has captured the notice of the World Health Organization, who in answer produced a statement notifying us that 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are at risk for hearing loss from dangerous listening practices.

Those dangerous practices include going to noisy sporting events and concerts without earplugs, along with the unsafe use of headphones.

But it’s the use of headphones that may be the greatest threat.

Bear in mind how often we all listen to music since it became transportable. We listen in the car, in the workplace, at the gym, and at home. We listen while out for a stroll and even while falling asleep. We can incorporate music into nearly every aspect of our lives.

That level of exposure—if you’re not careful—can gradually and quietly steal your hearing at an early age, leading to hearing aids down the road.

And since no one’s prepared to surrender music, we have to find other ways to safeguard our hearing. Thankfully, there are simple and easy preventative measures we can all take.

The following are three essential safety guidelines you can use to preserve your hearing without sacrificing your music.

1. Limit the Volume

Any sound louder than 85 decibels can bring on permanent hearing loss, but you don’t need to invest in a sound meter to measure the decibel level of your music.

Instead, a useful rule of thumb is to keep your music player volume at no more than 60 percent of the max volume. Any higher and you’ll most likely be over the 85-decibel limit.

In fact, at their loudest, MP3 players can pump out more than 105 decibels. And since 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 conversing to someone, that’s a good indication that you should turn down the volume.

2. Limit Listening Time

Hearing injury is not only a function of volume; it’s also a function of time. The longer you subject 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 previously recommended that you keep your MP3 player volume at 60 percent of its max volume. The other component is making sure that you limit the listening time to under 60 minutes a day at this volume. And keep in mind that lower volumes can handle longer listening times.

Taking periodic rest breaks from the sound is also important, as 60 decibels uninterrupted for two hours can be far more damaging than four half-hour intervals spread throughout the day.

3. Pick the Right Headphones

The reason most of us have a hard time keeping our MP3 player volume at under 60 percent of its maximum 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 remedy to this is the usage of noise-cancelling headphones. If background noise is lessened, sound volume can be limited, and high-quality music can be experienced at lower volumes.

Lower-quality earbuds, alternatively, have the double disadvantage of sitting more closely to your eardrum and being incapable of limiting background noise. The quality of sound is lower as well, and combined with the distracting external sound, increasing the volume is the only method to compensate.

The bottom line: it’s well worth the money to spend money on a pair of premium headphones, preferably ones that have noise-cancelling technology. 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.

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