It turns out, our parents were right! Listening to loud headphones for long periods of time can ruin your hearing ability and permanently damage your hearing. Thus two questions arise. What are the precautions of using headphones and how to know if your headphones are too loud?
First, let's look at the facts. Loud music is the leading cause of hearing impairment! The World Health Organization estimates over a billion people, at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. The list mostly consists of teens and young adults. While 360 million young people, live with debilitating hearing loss, already.
At this point, it' s best to question with concern, how to know if your headphones are too loud? Common symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss include,
- Inability to understand speech on low volume
- A gradual increasing need to turn the volume up in the headset
- Constant subtle tinnitus without the headset
- Muffled sounds
Audiology doctors recommend preventing the damage by following the 60/60 rule. It suggests keeping the volume at 60% or less and listening for 60 minutes at a time only, followed by a break of about half an hour. The general theory is that the louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for hearing to degrade completely. However, to personalize the experience, it's best to get in touch with your comfort level and listening thresholds.
In this post, we will give you eight ways to find out if your current sound levels are dangerous to you:
1. After hearing headphones for a few hours, if there's any ringing in your ears?
Start by listening to your favorite music on your preferred sound level. If you're in a noisy environment, do this activity in a quiet environment to block any external noise and interruption. We don't want these external factors messing with the results.
After a session of at least 3 hours, go down to a quiet, peaceful place, remove your headset and mimic meditating. What you're aiming to hear in this state, is tinnitus or ringing sound in your ears. Pay attention to how loud the tinnitus is. After that, you can pass the day until you sleep without the use of the headset.
When you wake up, go to that same place, first thing and get in that state of meditation again. Try to hear the tinnitus and ringing this time. This time around, you will listen to your natural tinnitus. If the ringing is quieter this time, it means that your headset sound is loud. It's as simple as that.
2. With your headphones on, if you can hear anyone around you?
It is another quick and effective technique to see if you are listening to a volume that is too loud. Plug in your headphones or earphones and put on your favorite song at the sound levels you want to test. Next, you can also have a dialogue. Generally, if the person is at an arm's length from you, you should be able to hear them out.
If that's not the case, you may not be able to understand them outright, and their voice may sound muffled or distorted. It, in turn, will encourage the person to speak in raised tone. It means that the sound is too loud. You're better off bringing it down a notch or two to promote healthy social interactions.
3. Ask somebody around you if they can hear your headphones
Remember that awkward moment, when you were listening to your guilty pleasure, in the van, safely in your headphones? And what happened after that? A tap on your shoulder to lower the volume as the sound was leaking away to others creating a sensation of humor within the entire van.
We've all been in such awkward situations, but now we know there's more than a thing wrong with that. If the headphone sound is receivable to the people around you, then it's too loud. Lower it to save yourself the embarrassment with the added benefit of healthy hearing!
4. Listen to your headphones from a distance
Plug in your headphone and put it on. Play a song and turn the volume to your desired level. Now hold them out at an arm's length or place them on a surface at an arm's length. Try and listen to the music now, if you can make out the lyrics or hear the music too clearly, it's probably too loud. Retry doing the above steps until you can barely hear anything from the headphones when they're at an arm's length away. That's the right volume level for you.
Side note: Don' t try this with your favorite music. In that case, if you' re like me, you' d make out the lyrics no matter what!
5. Pay attention to your volume control
The sounds that are above 85 decibels put you at risk of permanent hearing damage. How much are 85 decibels you ask? That's roughly as loud as a blender machine on full throttle. Yeah, that's loud, isn't it? While you only hate the whirring of a machine, your ears hate any sound above 85 decibels, be it music or the clunky humming.
Headsets are generally rated with a sound creating a capacity of somewhere between 100-120 decibels on full volume. Therefore a reasonable estimate to control your volume would be at around 60% for regular use and 80% when listening to your favorite music at high volume. That's as high as you can go.
6. Turn to sound meter for help
From the famous Orfield Laboratories to noisy industries, decibel meters are used around the world to test sound levels. They are used to control whether a sound level lies within the established standards and measures in decibels. Experts recommend the cap for hearing safely, lies between 60-80 decibels.
Exposure to sound above 85 decibels repeatedly is the baseline where hearing impairment stems. For sound levels exceeding 100 decibels, 15 minutes per day is enough. Measure the sound of headset through sound meter by putting the mic right next to one ear cushions. It should show between 60-80 decibels (including apparatus error). Otherwise, turn the volume down.
7. Give a go, to personalized headphones with noise cancellation
Another way is to purchase a pair of good quality headsets, conducive to the type of audio experience you desire. Headphones vary in compatibility to 3 primary focuses, i.e., Bass, Mid-range, and Treble.
If you long for either one of those three sound types mainly, it's a rather good option to buy headphones based around that genre. It's better than cranking up your volume to hear that particular detail.
Moreover, get the added benefit of noise cancellation with quality headphones which allow you to hear music in lower volume. That' s because you won't have to compensate for external commotion and disturbances.
8. Install an equalizer to adjust the frequencies just right
If you tried everything and still have to turn the volume up to enjoy, consider buying an equalizer. It's a bit expensive option. The main reason people crank their volumes up to an unhealthy and dangerous level is that there are some details they're struggling to hear. It can be weak bass; vocals drowned out by instruments or a general lack of mid-range.
An equalizer boosts frequencies of your choice, instead of turning up the volume across the entire audible spectrum. Furthermore, if you can' t afford the hardware aspect of the equalizer, try software. The best part is that the equalizer functionality is free across most of the devices and available through the software of many brands.
You can't get your hearing back once it's lost. In a nutshell, energy from the loud sounds of headphones or prolonged exposure can damage the coating of the auditory nerve. Once those cells are gone, they can't be restored. There' s no real treatment!
Prevention is the key! Stay alert to risks of hazardous noise through headphones. The prevention of hearing loss is quite critical. Will you make sure your loved ones are aware of the hazards of headphone noise? Spread the message across your family, friends, and colleagues so they can keep themselves from harm's way!
Remember: One-third of the overall issue of permanent loss of hearing is preventable with proper precautions. And who knows, we might even limit the usage to a socially acceptable “I'm ignoring you” device and bring kids and teens out of their social bubble? It's only a win-win if you ask me.