Teenage boy listening to music through headphones

If you suspect hearing loss only happens to seniors, you might be surprised to discover that today 1 out of every 5 teenagers has some extent of hearing loss in the US. Furthermore, the rate of hearing loss in teens is 30 percent higher than it was in the 1980s and 90s.

It should come as no great surprise then that this has captured 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 habits include going to noisy sporting events and concerts without earplugs, along with the unsafe use of headphones.

But it’s the use of earphones that could very well be the most significant threat.

Consider how often we all listen to music since it became portable. We listen in the car, in the workplace, at the gym, and at home. We listen while out for a walk and even while falling asleep. We can combine music into nearly any aspect of our lives.

That quantity of exposure—if you’re not cautious—can gradually and silently steal your hearing at a very early age, leading to hearing aids down the road.

And since no one’s prepared to eliminate music, we have to uncover other ways to protect our hearing. Thankfully, there are simple and easy precautions we can all take.

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

1. Limit the Volume

Any sound louder than 85 decibels can produce permanent hearing loss, but you don’t need to buy yourself a sound meter to measure the decibel level of your music.

Instead, a useful rule of thumb is to keep your music player volume at no higher than 60 percent of the maximum volume. Any higher and you’ll most likely be over the 85-decibel ceiling.

In fact, at their loudest, MP3 music players can pump out 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.

An additional tip: normal conversation registers at about 60 decibels. So, if while listening to music you have to raise your voice when talking to someone, that’s a good indication that you should turn down the volume.

2. Limit the Time

Hearing damage is not only a function of volume; it’s also a function of time. The longer you subject your ears to loud sounds, the more substantial the injury can be.

Which brings us to the next general rule: the 60/60 rule. We already recommended that you keep your MP3 player volume at 60 percent of its maximum volume. The other component is making sure that you limit the listening time to under 60 minutes a day at this volume. And keep 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 lot more damaging than four half-hour intervals distributed throughout the day.

3. Pick the Right Headphones

The reason the majority of us have difficulty keeping our music player volume at under 60 percent of its max is due to background noise. As surrounding noise increases, like in a congested 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-fidelity music can be experienced at lower volumes.

Low-quality earbuds, on the other hand, have the dual disadvantage of sitting closer to your eardrum and being incapable of controlling background noise. The quality of sound is compromised as well, and coupled with the distracting external sound, increasing the volume is the only way to compensate.

The bottom line: it’s truly worth the money to spend money on a pair of top quality headphones, ideally ones that have noise-cancelling capabilities. That way, you can adhere to the 60/60 rule without sacrificing the quality of your music and, more significantly, your hearing down the road.