Health Care Lifestyle

Protecting Your Ears While Listening to Music

A man sits on a couch at home with listening to music with headphones with his eyes closed, smiling, and hands behind his head.

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German author and poet Berthold Auerbach once said, "Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." It certainly seems to hold the power to transport us to another place and time, providing a much-needed distraction from whatever ails us. And today, with devices like smartphones, earbuds and headphones, our favorite tunes are always at our fingertips — even when we're on the go.

But before you crank up the volume, it's important to remember that loud music can put you at risk for significant hearing loss and other ear-related health issues. That's why our experts are offering tips to preserve your hearing so you can continue to enjoy your music — and its many benefits — for years to come.

How Music Can Lead to Hearing Loss

The hair cells within your inner ear allow your brain to detect sound. But when those sounds are too loud, the hair cells can bend as the sound travels through your ear canal. While the hearing loss you may notice after attending a music concert, for example, is usually temporary because the bends in those hair cells can straighten back out, it's still essential to understand that repeated exposure to loud noise causes permanent damage to them. Additionally, continuous loud noises can also cause permanent damage to your auditory nerve.

Learn About Protection for the Ears

More children, teens and young adults are experiencing hearing loss than ever before. The use of audio headphones — popular among people of all ages — for extended periods is likely the culprit. Whether you're considering a headset, wireless or wired headphones or other types of earbuds, do some research to learn the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

Bone conduction headphones, on the other hand, use mechanical vibrations to reach the inner ear rather than sending sound through the eardrum — making them a good choice for kids, teens and people with partial hearing loss. Studies also suggest this technology may be less likely to cause tinnitus. But unfortunately, for people with balance problems, bone conduction headphones can trigger dizziness, vertigo or other symptoms.

As a general rule, headphones that cover your entire ear are safest since:

  • Earbuds sit closer to the eardrum than over-the-ear headphones
  • Many earbuds play at a higher volume than headphones
  • Noise-reducing headphones block other noises, so you're less likely to dial up the volume

It's also crucial to remember that you're at risk of cochlear damage from any type of earphone if the volume is too loud or if you listen for too long.

Tips for Preserving Your Hearing

Keep the volume low to moderate. Many experts suggest 60% volume as the highest safe amount of noise. When you're listening at a higher volume, take frequent breaks. You can listen at low volumes for longer periods without the same risk of hearing loss.

  1. Set volume limits. Since different songs play at various sound levels, some smart technology devices allow you to choose a top volume limit. Check out your volume control options under the device settings.
  2. Set time limits. Controlling how much time you spend listening to music can be as important as controlling the volume. Set time limits and give your ears regular breaks.
  3. Invest in noise-cancelling headphones. If background noise isn't distracting you, you can enjoy your music at a lower, safer volume. However, when using noise-reducing headphones out of the house, stay aware of your surroundings and look for any dangers you may not hear.
  4. Use earplugs when you need them. If you're headed somewhere you know will be loud, such as mowing the lawn or watching fireworks, wear earplugs to preserve your hearing. That simple step can help you enjoy your music well into your golden years.

We're Here to Keep You Jamming Well Into the Future

If you suspect you have hearing damage or need hearing aids, we're here to help. Our experts can conduct a hearing test to assess any potential damage to your ears and provide the support you need to live in harmony again. Learn more about our ear, nose and throat services.

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