Eastside Audiology - Issaquah, WA Eastside Audiology - Issaquah, WA

Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

People who work in loud surroundings like construction sites or at heavy metal concerts are not the only ones impacted by noise related hearing loss. Leisure related noise exposure can be just as dangerous as work related noise exposure. What kind of exposure are we talking about? Loud noise heard through headphones, whether it’s music, gaming, streaming video, or even an audiobook with the volume turned up.

You may not think your smartphone or tablet can get that loud. But these devices can achieve sustained volumes of over 105 dB, which is near the average human pain threshold. Your ears will actually start to feel pain at this volume. So what can you do to safeguard against this sort of noise-related loss of hearing?

It’s significant here to consider the volume. A quick 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 at a stretch (because the length of sound exposure matters, too).

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Music

If you wear hearing aids, you’re most likely streaming your mobile device directly to your hearing aids, so be certain the volume is not too loud or that you’re not attempting to drown out other noises with your music. Additionally, ask us about how best to listen to music. If you’re a musician or someone who loves music you might have noticed that most hearing aids are created to enhance the quality of voices…not necessarily music. While enjoying music, we can most likely make various adjustments to help better the quality of sound and reduce the feedback.

How to Pick The Best Headphones

When buying headphones there are many choices, specifically if you have hearing aids. It may be a matter of personal choice, but there are some things you should consider there too.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

Over the ear headphones are becoming popular again but you probably won’t find the old foam covered ear pieces that used to come with a walkman. They have lots of choices in style and color, are often endorsed by celebrities, and can be surprisingly pricey. And these headphones cover the whole ear blocking unwanted sound, unlike those old foam ones.

Conventional wisdom is that these are safer than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further from your eardrum. But the truth is they’re frequently able to reach louder volume than their smaller kin, the speakers are a lot bigger. Noise cancellation can be a helpful thing as long as you’re not losing needed sounds such as an oncoming vehicle. With that being said, because they block out outside noise, you can often reduce the volume of what you’re listening to so it’s not loud enough to harm your ears.


The normal 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 phones, it’s just easier to use the earbuds which came with the device because it probably won’t have a headphone jack.

Earbuds also don’t cancel out sound so the drawback is, you tend to crank up the sound level. Once again,, though it’s often said that earbuds are problematic because you stick them in your ear so their speakers are extremely close to your eardrum, volume is the biggest issue.

Isolating or Occluding Earbuds

More comfortable than standard earbuds, models with a round rubber tip are the choice of many people because they help block outside noise. The rubber molds to the shape of your ear, creating a seal that blocks other sounds from entering. Not to sound like a broken record, but these types of earbuds have the same disadvantages 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). Obviously, these won’t work for you if you wear hearing aids.

You might have to check out more than one pair before you find headphones that work for you. Your expectations, acoustically, will differ depending on what kind of use you normally give them. The relevant thing is to seek out headphones that make it comfortable for you to listen at a safe and secure volume.

How to Make Certain Your Hearing is Protected

Is it Safe, How Can I be certain? If you have 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. There are other apps you can get, but studies has found that the dependability of these other apps is hit-and-miss (additionally, for whatever reason, Android-based apps have proven to be less precise). That motivated NIOSH to develop their own app. You can measure outside noise using the app, but you can also measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, so you will find out precisely how much volume your ears are subjected to. You have to put in a little effort, but putting in place these kinds of protective steps can help protect your ears.

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