It’s safe to say that headphones have become a staple in most peoples’ daily lives. Whether at the gym, while traveling, taking the dog for a walk or just at home, we use them far more often now than ever before. To no surprise, this has raised questions and prompted studies in the hearing community.
With much controversy about the potential harm of playing headphones too loudly, at which point do we really put ourselves at risk?
How much volume is too much volume with headphones on?
A lot of factors play into that. There’s how long you’re listening, the intensity of the audio (the type of music, spoken word, movies) and external noise - which tends to lead to higher listening volumes. Noise-induced hearing loss can be sneaky, specifically when talking about the damage done by prolonged exposure to sound via headphones.
Which headphones are most standard?
Over-ear headphones generally come in two types – open and closed. Open ones have perforated cups that allow some sound to escape to prevent it from being too loud, but likely need to be turned up in noisy places.
Then you have closed headphones that are good for external sound isolation. You don’t have as much background interference causing you to adjust the sound level. You have in-ear headphones that are generally safe at a normal volume, but if used incorrectly can definitely damage your ears.
Are cheaper headphones more dangerous?
Price matters in that higher-end headphones usually have had rigorous testing done and they generally adhere to strict regulations and standards. This isn’t always the case for less expensive brands. Another issue is that the sound quality often isn’t as good, so to hear finer details, you have to turn the volume up higher—which can lead to noise-induced hearing loss over time.
Are there regulations about how loud headphones can be?
Yes and no. There are regulations for how loud “mobile music players” can be, but this won’t necessarily matter if you aren’t using the headphones supplied with a particular music player. There’s a move toward greater regulation, which is good, but still not bulletproof.
What should people look for when buying headphones?
Comfort – Chances are you’re going to spend a lot of time wearing your headphones, so make sure they have a good, comfortable fit. A good acoustic seal reduces the need for excessive volume.
Audio quality – The better the audio quality, the more you’ll enjoy your headphones, and the less likely you’ll be to turn the volume up in order to hear the details.
Intended use –Think about where you plan to use your new headphones (on the go, at home, in a noisy place) and then make sure your choice matches that environment.