The best way to listen to music without harming your hearing

Friday, June 13, 2014

ear troubleThere are few things as universally pleasurable as music. Here are some tips for listening to music without harming your hearing:


  • Loud music can either cause hearing loss or tinnitus. There is no cure for either, and in case you think tinnitus is fine, the constant ringing or whistling have driven some people to suicide. The part of the ear that gets damaged is not the eardrum, but the nerve that transports sound from the ear to the brain. This cannot be replaced or repaired.

  • The medical recommendation is to avoid listening to music over 60 per cent of the maximum volume for more than 60 minutes a day. In other words, when it hurts, turn it down almost halfway and listen for less than an hour a day. 

What can we do to keep the damage to a minimum?

  • The safest volume is 75 decibels, while anything around 150 decibels can inflict immediate irreversible harm. 

  • It is better to listen without headphones than with headphones. This is not always possible, such as in the office, but even reducing the amount of time you listen with headphones can mitigate against hearing loss.

  • An overhead headset is better than the in-ear buds that come with portable music players. It allows the sound to pass through your outer ear channel first, while buds force the sound straight into your ear canal. 

  • If you listen to music in noisy areas like the gym or an airplane, use noise-cancelling headphones rather than turning up the volume to drown out the noise. 

  • Many people claim to have no hearing loss even after breaking all these rules. Hearing loss usually only appears after about ten years of reckless listening, however, so the damage is usually done before one notices it. The first sign is that one can hear well in quiet areas, but not in noisy spaces like restaurants. People with genetically sensitive ears lose hearing faster than those with more robust hearing. 

Do not allow your greatest source of enjoyment to become a hazard.

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