Sometimes, it’s nice to be in your own little world. With headphones, it’s definitely possible to tune everything out and tune into your favorite music.
Headphone technology has come a long way over the years, now with noise-cancelling options to make it even easier to keep from being disturbed by low-frequency sounds. But even with that technology, hearing damage can occur.
Audiologists recommend that you follow a simple rule of 60/60 per day no matter which type of headphones you use.
That means you shouldn’t turn up the volume of your headphones more than 60% of its maximum (ideally, keep it lower than that) and you should limit your listening time to 60 minutes per session.
They suggest that by doing this and taking a minimum of 30 minutes off from listening to music via your headphones, you’ll protect your hearing and still get to enjoy your own private music session.
Basically, the louder the sound is that you’re listening to, the shorter amount of time it will take for hearing damage to occur. But the rules are there as a guideline. Ideally, you’ll listen at less than 60% volume for less than 60 minutes at a time.
Here, we’ll be exploring why headphones are so loud and what you can do about it so you can enjoy whatever type of headphones you have, whether they’re noise-cancelling, regular, earbuds, or any of the other options available on the market today.
Because no matter which one you choose, you will need to use them responsibly to protect your hearing. Keep reading to find out how!
Why Are My Headphones So Loud?
If you want to protect your hearing and still enjoy your headphones, you’ll have to make a few adjustments. Headphones can be very loud if you don’t consider a few factors. Among the biggest problem
The type of smartphone matters too. If you’re using iOS, you should take a look at both your EQ and volume limit settings on your phone.
These should both be turned off or else they could affect the volume you hear through your headphones. Go take a look by visiting ‘Settings’ and selection ‘Music,’ followed by ‘EQ/Volume Limit.’
For Android users, you can check your ‘Media’ volume settings. If it’s set to the max, make sure your EQ and any apps like ‘Audio Effects’ are turned off. This way, they won’t affect the overall volume.
If you happen to think the volume is too low, you might want to have your hearing checked.
All products are engineered to follow regulations and even at that, they can cause hearing damage when used too loud for too long.
It might not be that you have a problem with the volume…it could be hearing damage or a condition that is causing you not to hear it well enough. A visit to the doctor can help so get to it!
How to know if your headphones are too loud
Your parents have probably told you to turn down your music or you’ll go deaf for ages. Perhaps you heeded their advice, or perhaps you turned up the volume even more. You can argue with them all you like but you can’t argue with science. It’s a fact that listening to loud music for long periods of time, especially via headphones, can permanently damage your hearing.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use headphones though. You just need to take the proper precautions, like the 60/60 rule we mentioned above. But you might be wondering exactly how you know if your headphones are playing too loud?
Before we tell you how to find that out for sure, you should know that the World Health Organization (WHO) puts the estimate at over 1 billion people who are at risk for hearing loss through noise like music.
Young adults and teens are at the highest risk, and what’s most alarming is that 360 million people well before their golden years when hearing loss happens through the process of aging currently live with hearing loss.
George Bernard Shaw, the famed playwright, once said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Don’t waste your hearing away now and have troubles long before you’re in your elderly years.
Instead, you should know how to adjust your headphones for a reasonable volume and how to tell if they’re too loud.
If you can’t understand speech on a low-volume setting, you need to turn up the volume in your headphones gradually, you have subtle signs of tinnitus when you’re not wearing headphones, or you hear muffled sounds, you might be in trouble.
Keep reading and we’ll explore these points in a bit more detail.
– Do you hear ringing in your ears after listening to your headphones after a few hours?
Listen to your favorite songs at the sound level you prefer. Try moving to a quiet external environment so you can truly see if you’re listening too loud.
After listening, sit somewhere quiet and take off your headphones. Tune into your hearing, seeing if any ringing sounds or tinnitus is present.
If the sound of ringing is too loud in your ears, you are most definitely listening to your headphones at too loud a volume.
– Can you hear people around you when you’re wearing your headphones?
Another way to test out whether or not you’re listening to your music too loud with your headphones is to see if you can hear someone in the same room.
Put your headphones on and play a song at the sound level you want. Then, try to engage in conversation with someone that’s close by, at least arm’s length away. You should be able to hear them and understand them.
If you can’t and find yourself saying, “What?!?” then it’s time to turn down the headphones until you can hear them. Even if you hear them and they sound muffled, the volume is too loud.
– Can anyone around you hear your headphones?
If you’ve ever been on a subway, train, bus, or even in your office jamming out with your headphones on and someone has tapped you on the shoulder to ask you to turn it down, you’re listening too loud.
The music you’re listening to, no matter what type of music it is, shouldn’t be loud enough that everyone else can hear it. Turn it down!
– Can you hear the music from your headphones at a distance?
And finally, the last little test you can perform is to plug your headphones in and play some music. Turn the volume up to the level you like.
Then, take your headphones and hold them an arm’s length away, or even set them on a table and step within arm’s reach. Can you understand the lyrics or discern the music? If so, it’s too loud.
Keep repeating this exercise, turning the volume down little by little until you can no longer hear it. Then make note of the volume setting and keep it there to help preserve your hearing.
One point we should make though is this: when doing this test, select a song you don’t know very well.
This way you won’t anticipate the lyrics, riffs of guitar, or other telltale signs for songs you know and you’ll have an honest assessment whether you are listening too loud.
– Other tips to help
Now that you know a bit about how to tell if your headphones are too loud, you should check your volume control.
Sounds above 85 decibels can damage your hearing permanently. Heavy machinery at a factory makes sounds in this decibel range, and just 8 hours of exposure can ruin your hearing for good.
But you don’t need to work in a factory to net hearing damage at that decibel level. Your headphones can do it to you too if you’re not using them responsibly.
All headphones fall between a maximum possible level of 100 to 120 decibels. This is why audiologists advise that 60/60 rule.
If you regularly turn up the volume on your headphones as loud as it will go, you are doing irreparable damage to your hearing.
A sound meter can help you. These are used to see whether a sound is too loud, measured in decibels.
You can use your headphones along with a sound meter, placing the ear cushions right next to it. Play the music and see how many decibels it rates the sound.
If it’s above 80 decibels, you need to turn it down. Ideally though, you should be listening at a much lower volume, like 60 to 70 decibels.
If the reason you’re listening to your headphones too loud is because of exterior unwanted noises, particularly of a low frequency (like that of a jet engine), then you could do with a pair of high-quality noise-cancellation headphones.
Choosing the right headphones for your needs plus the type of music you listen to (bass, treble, or mid-range) can make all the difference.
That means you’ll get to tune into everything you want to hear at a reasonable volume without having to blast your eardrums to tune out unwanted sounds.
One last thing that can help is to install an equalizer so you can make adjustments to the frequencies.
This should be done if you’ve tried everything else and just can’t seem to turn the volume lower to enjoy the music you want to hear.
It’s pricey but it can help bring in more detail from bass, vocals, and other instruments that aren’t being picked up in the mid-range.
Equalizers boost the frequency you select rather than cranking up the entire volume. If it’s too expensive though, consider downloading software that can help you pinpoint which frequency is lacking and adjust accordingly.
It could be all you need to make your music more enjoyable without turning it up into dangerous decibel territory!
Can loud noise damage your hearing?
In short, yes, it most certainly can. The main danger with headphones is volume. They are capable of producing louder sounds than we need to be exposed to very close to the ears.
Loud noises are damaging for hearing anyway, whether you’re listening to them via stereo speakers, you walk by a construction site, or you have those noises piped directly into your ears through headphones.
Sound waves vibrate the eardrum which is then transmitted to your inner ear via the small bones that reside there.
It then reaches the cochlea, a fluid-filled chamber in your ear with thousands of hair cells. The fluid inside the cochlea vibrates, making the hairs move. With louder sounds, there are stronger vibrations which make the hairs move even more.
By listening to loud sounds for too long, these hair cells begin to lose their sensitivity to the vibrations.
In many cases, loud noises can cause the cells to fold or bend over which is what causes a temporary hearing loss right after being exposed to loud noises.
It takes your hair cells time to recuperate from the vibrations, but some of them may never recover. This is what leads to permanent hearing loss and is impossible to repair.
If that disturbs you, now is the time to make a change to protect your hearing. You don’t need to give up your headphones.
In fact, your headphones can give you a better quality of life, but you MUST use them properly. Keep reading to learn how to prevent hearing damage from headphones.
How to avoid hearing damage from headphones
Being aware that your music is too loud is the first step. Now that you know about decibels and the damage they can do, it’s time to protect your ears so you can continue to enjoy your headphones and music for years to come.
Here are some tips to help you listen and enjoy without hearing damage.
– Turn the volume down
The most effective change that you can and should make for the sake of protecting your hearing is to drop the volume on all your listening devices.
This goes for stereo systems at home and in your car as well as your headphones. By limiting your exposure to loud sounds, you can keep your hearing in good health.
– Get noise-cancelling headphones
Likely, you turn up your headphones loud so that you can avoid hearing other sounds. Drowning these sounds out by way of louder sounds in your ears is a terrible way to go about this though.
If you don’t want to hear the sounds around you, you should invest in noise-cancelling headphones.
These block out those pesky external sounds and allow you to enjoy your own music and movies at a reasonable volume without being bothered.
Do keep in mind that active noise-cancelling headphones are ideal for low-frequency sounds. If it’s chatter around you or random sounds like a baby crying on an airplane, the technology isn’t able to counter that type of noise.
Models that have noise-isolation features will then be best for you to help you enjoy a better listening experience without having to turn up the volume so much.
– Get over-ear headphones
Audiologists and otologists often encourage using headphones that come in the over-ear styles.
These create a bit of distance between your eardrums and the sound from the speakers compared to in-ear models like earbuds.
When you distance yourself from the sound, it helps lower your chances for losing your hearing. That doesn’t mean you can listen louder with over-the-ear models though. You should still engage in the 60/60 rule.
– Keep your exposure to loud sounds limited
In addition to turning that volume down, keep to that 60/60 rule as we mentioned. By keeping the volume no more than 60% of the maximum and limiting the amount of time you listen through your headphones (or even on a stereo), you’ll protect your hearing.
If you’ve already been blasting your ears at full volume for a while, you may have already incurred hearing damage.
That doesn’t mean it’s too late though. True that the damage has been done, you can still exercise smart choices now and keep from damaging your hearing further.
Concerned about your hearing? Make an appointment with your doctor to get checked out. If you do have hearing damage, there are options that can help you like hearing aids which can restore your hearing.
You should try to avoid having to get hearing aids but if you must, it’s nice to know that there are ways you’ll still be able to hear the little sounds in life that make it worth living, like waves crashing onto the shore or the voices of the people you love.
Headphones can be loud for many reasons. For one, your settings on your device might be causing problems and all it takes is a simple adjustment. For another, you might be turning it up altogether too loud.
When you pay attention to the volume and keep it at a reasonable level and you avoid listening to your headphones for too long a duration, you help take care of your hearing. Doing so ensures you’ll have your hearing intact for a great many years ahead.
Perform the checks and tests we outlined above to determine if you’re listening too loud. If you are, there’s no time like the present to make a change for the better!