Teenage boy listening to music through headphones

If you suspect hearing loss only happens to older people, you will probably be shocked to discover that today 1 out of every 5 teenagers has some measure of hearing loss in the US. Furthermore, the rate of hearing loss in teens is 30 percent higher than it was in the 1980s and 1990s.

It should come as no surprise then that this has caught the attention of the World Health Organization, who in answer released a report cautioning us that 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are at risk for hearing loss from harmful listening practices.

Those unsafe habits include participating in noisy sporting events and concerts without earplugs, along with the unsafe use of earphones.

But it’s the use of earphones that may be the most significant threat.

Bear in mind how frequently we all listen to music since it became transportable. We listen in the car, on the job, at the gym, and at home. We listen while out for a stroll and even while drifting off to sleep. We can integrate music into virtually every aspect of our lives.

That amount of exposure—if you’re not cautious—can gradually and silently steal your hearing at a very early age, resulting in hearing aids down the road.

And given that no one’s prepared to abandon music, we have to uncover other ways to protect our hearing. Thankfully, there are simple and easy preventative measures we can all adopt.

The following are three important safety tips you can make use of to protect your hearing without sacrificing your music.

1. Limit the Volume

Any sound louder than 85 decibels can produce permanent hearing loss, but you don’t need to buy yourself a sound meter to measure the decibel level of your music.

Instead, an effective rule of thumb is to keep your music player volume at no more than 60 percent of the max volume. Any higher and you’ll probably be over the 85-decibel limit.

In fact, at their loudest, MP3 music players can pump out more than 105 decibels. And since the decibel scale, like the Richter scale, is logarithmic, 105 decibels is about 100 times as intense as 85.

Another tip: normal conversation registers at about 60 decibels. Therefore, if while listening to music you have to raise your voice when conversing to someone, that’s a good signal that you should turn down the volume.

2. Limit Time

Hearing damage is not only a function of volume; it’s also a function of time. The longer you subject your ears to loud sounds, the more substantial the damage can be.

Which brings us to the next general guideline: the 60/60 rule. We already recommended that you keep your MP3 player volume at 60 percent of its max volume. The other aspect is ensuring that you limit the listening time to under 60 minutes a day at this volume. And keep in mind that lower volumes can handle longer listening times.

Taking periodic rest breaks from the sound is also crucial, as 60 decibels without interruption for two hours can be significantly more damaging than four half-hour intervals dispersed throughout the day.

3. Choose the Appropriate Headphones

The reason the majority of us have difficulty keeping our music player volume at less than 60 percent of its max is due to background noise. As surrounding noise increases, like in a busy gym, we have to compensate by increasing the music volume.

The solution to this is the usage of noise-cancelling headphones. If background noise is mitigated, sound volume can be reduced, and high-fidelity music can be appreciated at lower volumes.

Low-quality earbuds, on the other hand, have the dual disadvantage of being closer to your eardrum and being incapable of limiting background noise. The quality of sound is compromised as well, and combined with the distracting external sound, increasing the volume is the only method to compensate.

The bottom line: it’s truly worth the money to invest in a pair of high quality headphones, preferably ones that have noise-cancelling functionality. That way, you can stick to the 60/60 rule without sacrificing the quality of your music and, more importantly, your hearing later in life.

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