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Talk of headphone-induced hearing loss is gone, but headphones and headphones still pose a serious risk to your ears. How loud is too loud, and how do you protect your ears without giving up the music?

Hearing damage threshold is 85 dB

Most doctors agree that 85 dB is the threshold for hearing loss. After repeated prolonged exposure to sounds at or above 85 dB, you can expect hearing loss or tinnitus. And while you probably assume that 85 dB is «extremely loud,» there’s a good chance you’ll be exposed to sounds that exceed that threshold every day. For example, lawn mowers and busy restaurants tend to produce around 90 dB of sound.

Don’t worry, morning lawn care or dinner at an Applebee won’t cause hearing loss. Doctors agree that your ears can withstand up to eight hours of exposure to 85 dB. But as you can imagine, as the volume level increases, your auditory tolerance decreases. Your ears just can’t handle 100 dB for eight hours. This is where music lovers should start to get excited.

CONNECTED: Hearing Loss: How Loud Is Too Loud?

What happens after 85 dB?

Your headphones and your audio source determine the volume level of your music. But across the board, almost all combinations of phones, amplifiers, and headphones can significantly exceed the 85 dB threshold. Some headphones can even work in the range from 110 to 120 dB. At this volume level, your ears can withstand about a minute of exposure before being damaged.

Headphones next to amplifier

You see, the relationship between dB level and loudness tolerance is not linear. At 90 dB, four hours of exposure time will result in permanent hearing loss. Crank up to 95 dB and your ears will only last two hours of exposure. Turn it up to 110 dB and your ears may only take 1 minute and 29 seconds.

Can you measure the dB level in headphones?

If you want to know for sure that your headphones or headphones are above the 85 dB threshold, then you will have a little problem. It is difficult to accurately measure the dB level in headphones.

Most dB meters are designed to calculate the volume of an environment such as a restaurant or construction site. But the sound from earphones and headphones is designed to shoot straight into your ears, not into the room. Thus, to use a dB meter with a pair of headphones, you must place the headphones directly against the meter. At best, you’ll get a semi-accurate reading.

Now, you want to buy a 50dB meter for «half» readings? Probably no. You can always check with a free db meter app like Sound Meter or Sound Analyzer, but this value will be less than «semi-half».

Let’s be honest; if you’re worried that your headphones are too loud, then they’re probably too loud. You may not know exactly how loud your headphones are, but paying attention and changing your listening habits are the only steps that will help you find a comfortable listening volume.

pay attention to what you do

One of the best ways to limit the volume is to limit the volume. When you’re using headphones or headphones, take a second to ask yourself if it’s too loud. If you do not feel like making such an effort, you can always find a comfortable volume level that you set as a threshold. This threshold can be «half» on the mobile phone’s volume slider, or a specific number from a more detailed audio source.

Girl listens to music through headphones, standing against mural
Eugenio Marongiu / Shutterstock

You can also set a volume threshold for music in any streaming app you use. Most streaming apps have a «Volume Normalization» feature in their settings that can be set to «low».

Another thing to watch out for is listening fatigue. When you listen to music (or any continuous sound), your ears start to get tired (not damaged, just tired). As a result, your music sounds «quieter». What do you do when your music is quiet? Well, you turn up the volume.

Turning up the volume when your ears are exhausted is a bad idea, but most people don’t realize they’re doing it. If you find yourself turning up the volume during your listening session, give your ears a minute to cool down. Take out your headphones and endure the annoying sound of your colleagues or your unusually quiet bedroom for at least 10 minutes.

Focus on quality instead of volume

Most people listen to loud music because they like to hear every little thing, not because they want their ears to bleed. If your headphones or headphones sound like rubbish at low volumes, you should consider getting better audio equipment.

No, you don’t have to buy some weird $1,000 audiophile gear to get quality sound. There are many high quality headphones and earphones that cost less than $200. If you wear headphones in noisy environments, you can always get good noise canceling headphones. I know $200 is still a lot of money, but good headphones sound good at low volumes and can last ten years if you treat them right. (A good pair of headphones will also sound amazing at high volume, in case you’re wondering.)

An older man truly appreciates the sound quality of his expensive headphones
Kite_rin / Shutterstock

While we’re on the subject of hardware, it’s important to note that a good pair of in-ear headphones will always deliver higher quality sound than a good pair of headphones. Headphones have their place, but if you tend to listen to music at home (where no one can make fun of you for looking stupid), then you should consider getting in-ear headphones.

If you don’t want to waste a few hundred dollars on expensive audio equipment, you should try adjusting your equalizer settings. Most mobile phones and amplifiers have powerful automatic equalizer settings that can improve sound quality at lower (and higher) volumes.

Last Resort: Wear Child-Proof Headphones

Sometimes you have to take drastic measures to change bad habits. If you are hooked on very loud music, you can try to punish yourself with volume-limiting headphones or volume-limiting headphones. These headphones are specially made for children and cannot exceed 85 dB. They probably don’t have the best sound quality, but that’s part of the punishment.

RELATED: best headphones for kids with volume limiter

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