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Teenage boy listening to music through headphones

If you believe that hearing loss only happens to seniors, you will probably be shocked to discover that today 1 out of every 5 teenagers has some extent of hearing loss in the United States. 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 great surprise then that this has caught the notice of the World Health Organization, who in answer released a statement warning us that 1.1 billion teens and young adults worldwide are at risk for hearing loss from harmful listening practices.

Those unsafe practices include attending deafening sporting events and concerts without hearing protection, along with the unsafe use of headphones.

But it’s the use of headphones that may be the most significant threat.

Consider how often we all listen to music since it became mobile. We listen in the car, in the workplace, at the gym, and at home. We listen while out for a stroll and even while drifting off to sleep. We can combine music into virtually every aspect of our lives.

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

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

The following are three vital safety tips you can use to preserve your hearing without sacrificing your music.

1. Limit the Volume

Any sound louder than 85 decibels can lead to 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 higher than 60 percent of the max volume. Any higher and you’ll most likely be above the 85-decibel ceiling.

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

Another tip: normal conversation registers at about 60 decibels. Therefore, if when listening to music you have to raise your voice when speaking 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 greater the injury can be.

Which brings us to the next rule of thumb: the 60/60 rule. We previously suggested that you keep your MP3 player volume at 60 percent of its max 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 periodic rest breaks from the sound is also crucial, as 60 decibels without interruption for two hours can be a great deal more damaging than four half-hour intervals distributed throughout the day.

3. Choose the Right Headphones

The reason many of us have difficulty keeping our MP3 player volume at under 60 percent of its maximum is a consequence of background noise. As environmental 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, on the other hand, have the double disadvantage of being closer to your eardrum and being incapable of reducing background noise. The quality of sound is diminished as well, and coupled with the distracting environmental sound, increasing the volume is the only way to compensate.

The bottom line: it’s well worth the money to invest in a pair of top quality headphones, preferably ones that have noise-cancelling capabilities. That way, you can stick to the 60/60 rule without compromising the quality of your music and, more importantly, your hearing later in life.