Teenage boy listening to music through headphones

If you think hearing loss only happens to seniors, you will probably be shocked to discover that today 1 out of every 5 teenagers has some amount of hearing loss in the United States. 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 captured the notice of the World Health Organization, who in answer produced a statement notifying us that 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are at risk for hearing loss from dangerous listening habits.

Those dangerous habits include going to deafening sporting events and concerts without earplugs, along with the unsafe use of headphones.

But it’s the use of earphones that could very well be the greatest threat.

Bear in mind how frequently we all listen to music since it became mobile. We listen in the car, at work, at the gym, and at home. We listen while out for a stroll and even while falling asleep. We can integrate music into virtually any aspect of our lives.

That amount of exposure—if you’re not cautious—can slowly and quietly steal your hearing at a young age, leading to hearing aids later in life.

And given that no one’s prepared to abandon music, we have to determine other ways to safeguard our hearing. Fortunately, there are simple 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 cause permanent hearing loss, but you don’t need to buy yourself a sound meter to measure the decibel output of your music.

Instead, an effective general guideline is to keep your music player volume at no louder than 60 percent of the maximum volume. Any higher and you’ll likely be over the 85-decibel limit.

In fact, at their loudest, MP3 music players can pump out more than 105 decibels. And given that the decibel scale, like the Richter scale, is logarithmic, 105 decibels is approximately 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 indicator that you should turn the volume down.

2. Limit Time

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

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

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

3. Pick the Right Headphones

The reason the majority of us have a hard time keeping our MP3 player volume at under 60 percent of its maximum is a consequence of background noise. As environmental noise increases, like in a congested fitness center, we have to compensate by increasing the music volume.

The solution to this is the use of noise-cancelling headphones. If background noise is mitigated, sound volume can be limited, and high-quality music can be enjoyed at lower volumes.

Lower-quality earbuds, alternatively, have the twin disadvantage of being more closely to your eardrum and being incapable of decreasing background noise. The quality of sound is compromised as well, and coupled with the distracting external sound, increasing the volume is the only way to compensate.

The bottom line: it’s well worth the money to spend money on a pair of quality headphones, ideally ones that have noise-cancelling capability. That way, you can adhere to the 60/60 rule without sacrificing the quality of your music and, more importantly, your hearing down the road.

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