Whether you love to stream music, podcasts, or a favorite comedy series, there’s no denying that earbuds and headphones play a big part in personalizing our listening experiences. So it’s no wonder that enjoying audio through these accessories appears to be such a popular pastime—and even a personal necessity—for nearly everyone of streaming age.
But with today’s fact in mind, it’s important to remember the potential impact earbuds and headphones can have on your hearing: When you use these personal listening accessories for listening at a volume that’s too loud and for too long, you run the risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
Balancing volume and length of audio can deter NIHL
Fortunately, there is a solution to defend against NIHL when using personal listening accessories. The source of today’s fact, Cleveland Clinic Audiologist Sharon Sandridge, PhD, advises balancing the volume level of your audio with length time you are listening to it through your earbuds or headphones.
“Listening at eighty-percent volume for a maximum of ninety minutes at a time is a general rule of thumb,” Sandridge says.
But what if you need to stream another season of a show to make that flight “go faster”? Or opt for a longer walk and thus want more music to keep you motivated—through your earbuds or headphones?
In these instances, the audiologist recommends reducing the volume in a way that the longer you listen, the lower the volume should be.
Here are some other things you can do to protect your hearing while using earbuds or headphones:
Consider noise-cancelling accessories
Opting for over-the-ear or noise-cancelling headphones over earbuds can help shut out the background sound loose-fitting earbuds would let in. So, you’re less inclined to increase the volume and potentially damage your hearing in the process.
Invest in higher-quality accessories
Spending more on better-quality headphones or earbuds can also help protect your hearing from NIHL: More upscale listening accessories tend to have “higher fidelity sound,” says Sandridge, making you less apt to turn up the volume to hear your audio.
Monitor how loud is too loud
Remember: As a rule, the louder the sound, the faster NIHL can develop—and fortunately, there is a way to tell if whatever you’re listening to through your headphones or earbuds is too loud to begin with.
According to Mayo Clinic Audiologist Greta Stamper, PhD: If you have your listening accessories on/in and cannot understand someone just an arms-length away or communicate without raising your voice—it’s time to turn the volume down.
As you can see, there is no need to forego that personal listening experience earbuds and headphones offer—as long as you play it safe.
Questions? Contact a hearing care professional
If you ever find yourself questioning whether you are using your headphones or earbuds safely, reach out to a licensed hearing care professional near you. They will be happy to guide you through the best safe-listening practices for your headphone or earbud use, and even test your hearing for hearing loss if you think you may have it.
Simply type your zip code in here to find a hearing care professional near you.