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The Daily Tonic: What Are The Best Headphones To Prevent Hearing Loss?

The Daily Tonic is a two to five minute read sharing science backed health news and tips, all while getting you to crack a smile or even lol on occasion.

When it comes to listening to the audio on our phones, most of us use some sort of headphones. Whether you are going for the trendy DJ look with over-the-ear headphones, a millennial going for the sophisticated AirPods look, or you still prefer the archaic use of wired earbuds, the question remains: does your headphones choice matter when it comes to ear health or hearing loss? 

For a long time, it has been believed that earbuds (wired or not) were the worst choice when it comes to preventing ear damage. That would make sense since they send audio straight into your ear canal. Over-the-ear headphones, on the other hand, send audio from a greater distance. 

According to an audiologist at the University of Colorado hospital, the type of headphones you use doesn’t matter. The fear that earbuds do more damage to your ear is a total misconception. 

*sigh of relief for millennial AirPod aficionados*

What ultimately matters when it comes to preventing noise-induced hearing loss is the volume at your eardrum, not where it comes from. According to an expert cited in this New York Times article, there is an easy rule of thumb you can follow if you want to keep your hearing at top-notch levels as you age. 

The 80 for 90 rule explains that you can safely listen to audio at 80% of the max volume on a device for up to 90 minutes a day. If you listen at a lower volume than 80%, you get more time. And if you decide to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack yet again at a higher volume than 80%, you would get less time.

Whatever headphones you use, the best way to prevent hearing loss is to listen in environments without lots of ambient noise

According to the CDC, most personal listening devices max out at a volume of 105-110 decibels. 80% of that would put you at about 85 decibels, which would be the equivalent of a gas-powered lawn mower.

Another important thing to point out is that for headphone users that are trying to listen to audio in a very noisy environment, it might be tough to keep their volume under 80%. Say you are walking through a noisy city street and you have to raise the volume just enough to compete with the ambient noise so you can hear your music. That alone is probably over 80% of the max volume on your device and enough volume to damage your ears in the long run. 

The key takeaway? There is nothing inherently bad about earbud-style headphones. As long as you are regulating the volume to a manageable decibel level, you should be in the clear. 

One helpful tip is to actually look for a noise-canceling headphones option so that you don’t have to compete with outside noise to hear your music. Earbuds that fit snugly or over-the-ear, or headphones that securely seal around your ear are great options that will allow you to listen to the latest TikTok trending audio without having to go over that 80% benchmark.

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