Teenage boy listening to music through headphones

If you think hearing loss only happens to seniors, you will probably be surprised to learn that today 1 out of every 5 teens has some amount of hearing loss in the US. In addition, the rate of hearing loss in teens is 30 percent higher than it was in the 1980s and 1990s.

It should come as no real surprise then that this has captured the interest of the World Health Organization, who as a result issued a report warning us that 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are at risk for hearing loss from harmful listening habits.

Those dangerous habits include going to loud sporting events and concerts without hearing protection, along with the unsafe use of earphones.

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

Think about 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 walk and even while falling asleep. We can integrate music into virtually every aspect of our lives.

That quantity of exposure—if you’re not careful—can slowly and silently steal your hearing at a young age, leading to hearing aids in the future.

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

Here are three important safety guidelines you can make use of to preserve your hearing without sacrificing your music.

1. Limit the Volume

Any sound louder than 85 decibels can bring on permanent hearing loss, but you don’t need to invest in 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 more than 60 percent of the maximum volume. Any higher and you’ll most likely be above the 85-decibel ceiling.

In fact, at their loudest, MP3 players can generate 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.

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

2. Limit Listening 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 substantial the injury can be.

Which brings us to the next general rule: 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 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 important, as 60 decibels without interruption for two hours can be far more damaging than four half-hour intervals spread throughout the day.

3. Pick the Appropriate Headphones

The reason most of us have difficulty keeping our music player volume at less than 60 percent of its maximum is a consequence of background noise. As surrounding noise increases, like in a busy fitness center, we have to compensate by boosting the music volume.

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

Low-quality earbuds, alternatively, have the dual disadvantage of sitting closer to your eardrum and being incapable of reducing background noise. The quality of sound is compromised as well, and coupled with the distracting environmental sound, increasing the volume is the only way to compensate.

The bottom line: it’s truly worth the money to invest in a pair of quality headphones, ideally 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 down the road.

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