Teenage boy listening to music through headphones

If you think hearing loss only happens to older people, you will probably be shocked to learn that today 1 out of every 5 teens has some extent 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 90s.

It should come as no real surprise then that this has caught the interest of the World Health Organization, who as a result released a statement notifying us that 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are at risk for hearing loss from harmful listening practices.

Those dangerous habits include attending noisy sporting events and concerts without earplugs, along with the unsafe use of headphones.

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

Bear in mind how often we all listen to music since it became transportable. We listen in the car, in the workplace, at the gym, and at home. We listen while out for a stroll and even while falling asleep. We can incorporate music into almost every aspect of our lives.

That quantity of exposure—if you’re not careful—can gradually and quietly steal your hearing at a very early age, resulting in hearing aids later in life.

And considering that no one’s prepared to surrender music, we have to find other ways to safeguard our hearing. Fortunately, there are simple and easy preventative measures we can all adopt.

Here are three important safety tips you can use to preserve your hearing without compromising your music.

1. Limit Volume

Any sound louder than 85 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss, but you don’t need to invest in a sound meter to measure the decibel output of your music.

Instead, a useful general guideline is to keep your music player volume at no higher than 60 percent of the max volume. Any higher and you’ll probably be above the 85-decibel limit.

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

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

2. Limit the Time

Hearing damage 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 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 maximum volume. The other component 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 uninterrupted for two hours can be far more damaging than four half-hour intervals dispersed throughout the day.

3. Select the Appropriate Headphones

The reason the majority of us have a hard time keeping our music player volume at under 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 remedy to this is the usage of noise-cancelling headphones. If background noise is mitigated, sound volume can be reduced, and high-quality music can be experienced at lower volumes.

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

The bottom line: it’s truly worth the money to spend money on a pair of high quality headphones, preferably ones that have noise-cancelling capabilities. That way, you can adhere to the 60/60 rule without compromising the quality of your music and, more significantly, your hearing down the road.

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