How to Protect Your Hearing From Loud Music

Woman enjoying music with headphones but protecting her hearing.

Noise-related hearing loss doesn’t just affect people who work in loud settings, such as construction workers or heavy metal roadies. It doesn’t even have to be work-related, recreation-related noise exposure can be harmful, also. The most prevalent type? Music, gaming, streaming video or anything else that you would listen to through earbuds or headphones.

You might be surprised to discover that a mobile device can go that loud. The typical pain threshold for human hearing is close to 150 db which is in the range of these devices. This is the volume at which noise begins to literally hurt your ears. So what’s the plan to safeguard against this kind of noise-related hearing loss?

The volume level here is essential. Listen with the volume at or below 60% for 60 minutes or less at a stretch (how long you listen for also matters), this is called the 60/60 rule.

Make a Setting on Your Hearing Aids For Listening to Music

Make sure, if you’re using hearing aids, you don’t try to drown out other sounds by turning your streaming music up too high. In addition, ask us about how to best listen to music. If you’re a musician or real music aficionado you might have recognized that most hearing aids are created to sharpen the quality of voices…not necessarily music. While listening to music, we can most likely make some modifications to help enhance the quality of sound and lessen the feedback.

What Are The Best Headphones For You?

When picking out headphones there are lots of options, particularly if you use hearing aids. It may be a matter of personal preference, but there are some things you should consider there too.

Headphones That go Over The Ears

Over the ear headphones are becoming popular again but you most likely won’t see the old foam covered speakers that used to come with a walkman. They have a lot of options in style and color, are commonly endorsed by celebrities, and can be unexpectedly pricey. And unlike those little foam pads, these go over the whole ear, limiting outside sounds.

Main-stream perception is that these are less dangerous than in-ear headphones because the source of the sound is further from your eardrum. But because the speakers are larger they are normally capable of much higher sound level. Noise cancellation can be a helpful thing as long as you’re not missing important sounds like an oncoming car. But on the positive side, you won’t need to compete with outside sound so you can listen to your music at lower levels.


The standard earbuds that come with devices like iPhones are much maligned for their inferior sound quality, yet lots of people still use them because hey, they were included with the phone. Moreover, with newer versions that lack a headphone jack, sticking with Apple’s earbuds can just be easier.

The downside, besides the poor sound quality, is that basic earbuds don’t cancel outside noises, so that it’s more likely that you will pump up the sound level. Again, though it’s frequently said that earbuds are a problem because you put them in your ear so their speakers are extremely close to your eardrum, volume is really the biggest concern.

Earbuds That Block External Sound

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

You may have to test out quite a few pairs before you find headphones that do the job. Depending on what you’re most often using them for say talking on the phone, versus listening to music, you’ll have different acoustic expectations. Listening to your tunes at a healthy volume and finding 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 certain? 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 different apps, but studies has found that the dependability of these other apps is spotty (also, for unknown reasons, Android-based apps have proven less reliable). That prompted NIOSH to create their own app. The app enables you to measure outside noises, 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. It’s a little bit of work, but putting in place these kinds of protective steps can help safeguard your ears.

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.