Human hearing has its limits, especially in noisy environments. While technology, like loud music and machinery, often causes hearing loss, it can also help prevent it.
A good first step toward healthier ears is to learn how certain sounds affect them. Then you can explore technology, from headphones to apps, that protects your ears and helps you to focus on their wellbeing.
This allows you to keep working and enjoying your hobbies without harming your hearing. We’ll explain everything you need to know.
1. Know Your Sounds and Decibels
Two factors affect your ears the most: loudness and pitch. The first is measured in decibels (dB) and the second in Hertz (Hz). The most common cause of hearing loss is exposure to high decibels for long periods of time.
To be more precise, as Healthy Hearing explains, sounds louder than 85dB can gradually damage your eardrums and other parts of your ear. Sounds at 120dB, the equivalent of a rock concert, may be durable for some people, but it’s actually very risky.
Anything from 140dB and up almost guarantees painful and instant hearing loss, if not deafness. Be careful of your exposure to such sounds.
Here are some general tips to follow:
- Avoid going over 60 percent volume, whether you’re listening to music or playing video games.
- Opt for headphones instead of earbuds.
- Invest in good earplugs.
- Take frequent breaks to give your ears a rest.
- Avoid or protect yourself in environments with loud, recurrent, noises.
2. Get Noise-Canceling Headphones
Headphones with noise-canceling features make a big difference. They cover the ears and keep out external noises. As a result, you get better sound quality and you have less need to increase the volume.
Unfortunately, choosing the right pair of headphones for your circumstances can be a bit complicated. Do you need them for work or to unwind? Some of the best headphones for sleep and relaxation, for example, include whole eye masks with in-built audio technology.
Your main decision, however, comes down to choosing a product with good passive and active noise cancelation. Let’s take a look at these terms and some others you may come across.
Passive Noise-Canceling Headphones
The physical design of your headphones affects their basic ability to block out unwanted sounds. Their padding and how they sit over your ears can count toward this so-called passive noise cancelation.
So, the first thing to look for in new headphones is a good acoustic design.
Active Noise-Canceling Headphones
On top of your headphones’ passive qualities, you should look for extra features that actively stop external noise from interfering with what you’re listening to.
This usually involves microphones built into the headphones that pick up on ambient noise The microphones cancel out this noise by reversing the phase and playing it back at the same time.
Combining passive and active technology produces total cancelation. Keep an eye out for this term too when browsing products.
3. Choose Earbuds Carefully
Keep noise-canceling rules in mind when looking into earbuds too. They apply to earbuds just as much as headphones, only through a different design. At the same time, consider the types of buds available and how safe they are for your hearing.
An in-ear design brings audio closer to the eardrum, directly hitting it with soundwaves. This makes high volumes that much more dangerous to your hearing.
If you do go for such a product, the better noise cancelation features it has, the better your safety and enjoyment. Even so, try to keep the volume at no more than 60 percent.
On-ear buds are generally healthier as they only cover the ear canal instead of entering it. On the other hand, they’re a lot less effective than headphones in terms of encasing your ears and offering passive noise cancelation.
Even buds with the sturdiest grips tend to loosen and move around, which affects sound quality. Nevertheless, they can be a better option than in-ear buds, as long as you aim for reliable brands and products with ear-friendly features.
4. Check Out Earplug Options
If you find yourself in a very noisy setting that you can’t leave for a while, earplugs are the best way to protect your hearing. There are plenty of high-quality foam or plastic options, designed to comfortably fit in your ear without completely blocking concert music or conversations.
New technology, however, is revolutionizing earplugs. Considering how loud the world can get, it’s no surprise that products like Loop Earplugs exist. With these earplugs, ambient noises enter a round resonator in each plug, which helps to filter and neutralize the soundwaves before they reach your ear.
5. Use Apps for Healthy Hearing
Your smartphone really can help protect your ears, mainly by keeping you informed and alert of loud noises. Here are some mobile apps that might be of interest, but feel free to explore your app store for more options.
This Android app is a decibel sensor. All you do is point your microphone at whatever you want to check. Sound Meter will show you how loud it is.
Unfortunately, there’s a limit to the decibels it can easily recognize, namely 90dB or less. It might not be able to process anything louder. Nevertheless, Sound Meter is a handy app to have around.
For example, it can alert you to everyday sounds that are louder than you thought. After all, being more aware of your environment’s decibel level helps you better protect yourself.
Download: Sound Meter (Free, in-app purchases available)
As the name suggests, your smartphone can contain a personal Hearing Test. It uses the same decibel and frequency scale that doctors use to measure how well your ears work at picking up different frequencies.
You need a reliable set of headphones or earbuds to use it. Plug them into your device and follow the app’s instructions. At the end of the test, you’ll get detailed results to analyze and even print out.
While not exactly the same as visiting an actual doctor, it’s not a bad way to quickly check the state of your hearing. At the very least, if you get consistently bad results, you know it’s time for a proper test.
Download: Hearing Test (Free)
Multi Timer StopWatch
Don’t underestimate the value of a good stopwatch, especially since there are so many impressive timer apps for Android alone. If you tend to lose track of time, then an app like this can be a lifesaver.
Multi Timer StopWatch, for example, can help manage your day better, as well as track your exposure to loud settings and activities. It also lets you control timers with hand gestures among other handy features.
Multiple timers are especially helpful. Set one for 60 minutes to remind you to take a break from your work or game. Have another timer alongside it to calculate the total amount of time you spend each day with music or other audio in your ears.
Download: Multi Timer StopWatch (Free, in-app purchases available)
Take Care of Your Hearing With Technology
Even if technology is the main source of sounds in your life, you can still indulge in it, just in a healthier way. Get to know what audio equipment is good for you, as well as what other solutions to noise problems the tech industry offers, from earplugs to mobile apps.
Above all, respect your hearing’s limits and be alert to the noisy world around you. Your ears and general wellbeing will thank you for it.