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Enhanced Hearing Center - Springfield, MO

Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Individuals who work in loud settings like construction sites or at heavy metal concerts are not the only ones impacted by noise related hearing loss. It doesn’t even have to be work-related, leisure-related noise exposure can be dangerous, also. What kind of exposure are we discussing? Loud sounds heard through headphones, whether it’s music, gaming, streaming video, or even an audiobook with the volume cranked up.

You may not think your smartphone or tablet can go that loud. But these devices can achieve sustained volumes of over 105 dB, which is around the average human pain threshold. This is the volume where noise starts to literally hurt your ears. So what can you do to safeguard against this type of noise-related hearing loss?

The volume level here is essential. A simple shorthand that’s widely recommended is the 60/60 rule: Listen with the volume at or below 60% for 60 minutes or less at a stretch (because how long you listen for matters, too).

Your Hearing Aids Can be Set up For Listening to Music

If you use hearing aids, you’re more than likely streaming your mobile device directly to your hearing aids, so make sure the volume is not too loud or that you’re not trying to drown out other sounds with your music. In addition, consult us about how best to listen to music. If you’re a musician or real music aficionado you might have noticed that most hearing aids are programmed to sharpen the clarity of voices…not necessarily music. We may be able to change the configuration to decrease noise and feedback while increasing some frequency ranges to better the quality of sound while listening to music.

What Are The Right Headphones For You?

When getting headphones there are lots of choices, particularly if you have hearing aids. It might be a matter of personal preference, but there are some things you should consider there as well.

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 once came with a walkman. Often shockingly expensive, they feature a large variety of color choices and celebrity endorsements, and of course, superior sound quality. And unlike those little foam pads, these cover the entire ear, limiting outside noises.

Main-stream wisdom is that these are safer than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further away from your eardrum. But because the speakers are bigger they are often capable of much louder sound level. Noise cancellation can be a helpful thing as long as you’re not losing important sounds like an oncoming automobile. That said, because they block out outside sound, you can often reduce the volume of what you’re listening to so it’s not so loud that it will hurt your hearing.


The standard earbuds that are included with devices like iPhones are much maligned for their poor sound quality, yet many people still use them because hey, they were included with the phone. Moreover, with newer versions that don’t have a headphone jack, staying with Apple’s earbuds can simply be easier.

Earbuds also don’t cancel out noise so the downside is, you tend to crank up the sound level. Again, though it’s frequently said that earbuds are problematic because you stick them in your ear so their speakers are very close to your eardrum, 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 people because they help block outside noise. A seal that blocks 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 need to hear and loud volume is still the biggest issue. Needless to say, these won’t work for you if you have hearing aids.

Several pairs might have to be evaluated before you find headphones that meet your requirements. Depending on what you’re most often using them for talking on the phone, say, as opposed to listening to music, you’ll have unique acoustic requirements. Listening to your music at a healthy volume and coming across headphones that assist you in doing that is essential.

Don’t Cut Corners When it Comes to Your Hearing

Is it Safe, How Can I be Sure? There’s an app for that…If you have a smartphone, you can download the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s free Sound Level Meter app. You can get different apps, but studies has found that the dependability of these other apps is spotty (in addition, for reasons yet unknown, Android-based apps have proven less accurate). That motivated NIOSH to create an app of their own. The app allows you to measure outside noises, but you can also measure the sound coming from your device’s speakers, this means, the true volume of what’s being sent to your ears. It’s a little bit of effort, but taking these kinds of protective steps can help protect your hearing.

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