How to Protect Your Ears From Loud Music

Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related loss of hearing doesn’t just impact individuals who work in loud settings, like construction workers or heavy metal roadies. 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 cranked up.

You might not believe your smartphone or tablet can get that loud. But these devices can attain continuous volumes of over 105 dB, which is close to the ordinary human pain threshold. This is the volume at which noise starts to literally cause pain in your ears. So what can you do to protect against this kind of noise-related hearing loss?

The volume level here is important. An easy shorthand that’s widely suggested is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at no more than 60% for no more than 60 minutes in a single session (because how long you listen for matters, too).

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Listening to Music

Make certain, if you’re wearing hearing aids, you don’t try to drown out other noises by cranking your streaming music up too loud. And there are better ways to listen to music so consult us about that also. Hearing aids aren’t made to make music clearer like they do with voices so if you’re really into music, you may have observed this. We might be able to change the configuration to decrease feedback and noise while maximizing some frequency ranges to better the quality of sound when listening to music.

What Are The Right Headphones For You?

When purchasing headphones there are many options, especially if you use hearing aids. There are a few things to think about, although it’s generally a matter of personal preference.

Headphones That go Over The Ears

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. They have lots of options in color and style, are often endorsed by celebrities, and can be unexpectedly pricey. And unlike those little foam pads, these go over the whole ear, stopping outside sounds.

Main-stream wisdom is that these are less dangerous than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further away from your eardrum. But the reality is they’re usually able to reach louder volume than the smaller kind, the speakers are a lot larger. Noise cancellation can be a helpful thing as long as you’re not missing important sounds such as an oncoming car. But on the upside, you won’t have to compete with outside noise so you can enjoy your music at lower levels.


The standard earbuds are well known for poor sound quality, but because they come along with your phone a lot of people still use them. Moreover, with newer devices that no longer have a headphone jack, staying with Apple’s earbuds can simply be easier.

The downside, besides the poor sound quality, is that basic earbuds can’t block outside sounds, so you’re more likely to crank up the volume. It’s commonly believed that inserting earbuds so close to your eardrum is the main concern but it’s actually the volume.

Noise Blocking Earbuds

Lots of people choose earbuds with a rounded, rubbery tip both because they’re more comfy than traditional earbuds and more effective at stopping outside sounds. A seal that stops outside noise from getting in is formed by the rubber tip which molds to the shape of the ear. But these earbuds can also block out sounds you might need to hear and loud volume is still the main concern. And if you wear hearing aids, obviously these won’t work for you.

Several pairs will probably have to be evaluated before you find headphones that are what you are looking for. Depending on what you’re most often using them for talking on the phone, say, as opposed to listening to music, you’ll have different acoustic expectations. The significant thing is to seek out headphones that make it comfortable for you to listen at a safe and secure sound level.

Don’t Cut Corners When Dealing With Your Hearing

How can you be sure it’s okay? If you use a smartphone, you can get an app for that, 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 discovered that the dependability of these other apps is spotty (in addition, for whatever reason, Android-based apps have proven to be less accurate). That motivated NIOSH to create an app of their own. You can measure outside sounds with the app, but you can also measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, in other words, the true volume of what’s going to your ears. You have to do a little work, but putting in place these types of preventative measures 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.


    Hearing Aids By Tricia Leagjeld

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