While headphones aren’t exactly new, they are now more popular than ever before. The recent coronavirus pandemic and the work-from-home setting, in particular, have drastically increased our usage of headphones.
Although using them allows us to concentrate on our work and not disturb others around us, listening to loud audio through them can lead to irreparable hearing loss and damage.
Chances are you might already be using headphones at higher volumes than recommended by experts. This gives rise to a few questions, “How do you know if your headphones are too loud?” and “What precautions should we take to prevent damage to our ears when using headphones.”
To begin with, let’s start with the facts. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), listening to too loud music and having unsafe listening practices is putting over a billion young adults at risk for permanent noise-induced hearing loss.
The WHO also predicts that by 2050, roughly 2.5 billion people are expected to suffer from at least some degree of hearing loss.
After getting to know these facts and figures, it’s best to ask, how do you know if your headphones are too loud?
Well, the most important and most typical signs of knowing if your headphones are too loud and are causing ear damage include:
- Difficulty in understanding low volume speech
- An ever-increasing need to listen to louder volumes through your headphones to understand and hear what’s playing
- A subtle and constant ringing, buzzing, or hissing noise in your ears when not wearing your headphones
- Noises around you seem muffled
- You’re experiencing frequent headaches after listening to music through your headphones
So, exactly how do you know if your headphones are too loud? Here are the 6 ways to know if your headphones are too loud:
1. Do You Keep Hearing A Constant Ringing In Your Ears After Using Your headphones?
Ear ringing -also known as tinnitus- is a condition where your ears start perceiving sound without having an outside source of sound present. The symptoms of tinnitus seem to develop when individuals are exposed to loud sounds for prolonged durations.
How do you know if your headphones are too loud? Suppose you’ve started experiencing significantly loud ringing, buzzing, hissing, or clicking noises after wearing headphones. In that case, it might be a sign that your headphones are too loud and are causing damage to your hearing. At this point, the best thing to do would be to consult a professional and start turning down your volume.
You could try out an easy ringing test at home to assess your hearing. All you need is a pair of simple foam earplugs and a quiet space.
Start by taking some time off from wearing your headphones and listening to loud music completely. A few hours can do the trick, but abstaining from headphones for up to 2 to 3 days is better to get more accurate results.
When this period ends, find your way to a quiet setting and put your foam earplugs on. Try to concentrate and focus on listening. Relax, mimic meditation and stay completely still.
You should start to hear a subtle ringing in your ears throughout the silence, which is your ear’s baseline level. The following day, start using headphones as you usually do. After a few hours of use, repeat the same test in a quiet room.
If the subtle ringing noise is now louder than your previous baseline level, it means that the volume from your headgear is too loud.
Keep repeating this ringing test routinely to keep track of and assess the effect of your volume levels on your hearing. When the noise becomes significantly louder than the body’s normal baseline, it’s time to consider turning down your usual volume.
2. People Next To You Can Hear What’s Playing
All of us have undoubtedly sat next to someone on public transport listening to loud music on their headphones at least once in our lives. If you could hear what was playing loud and clear, it’s apparent that they were listening to music at potential ear-damaging volumes.
Similarly, you can check if the volume you listen to is too loud by asking a friend to sit next to you. If they can easily pick up the sounds or lyrics being played, it means that your headphones are too loud.
Keep the volume low to save yourself from facing awkward interactions regarding your music taste in public areas and protect your hearing!
However, one thing to keep in mind is that this test works better if you’re not using open-back headphones, as they are known to leak audio even at lower volume levels.
3. Take Off Your Headphones And Listen From A Distance
An easy way to find out the answer to your question of “how do you know if your headphones are too loud” by yourself is to plug them in and put on some music at your desired volume. Then place them on a surface or hold them roughly an arm’s length away and try to listen to the audio being played.
If you can easily make out the lyrics and hear the music, your headphones are too loud. Keep redoing the same test every time until you can only barely hear music from your headphones when they’re an arm’s length apart. That’s generally considered a safer volume level for your ears.
One important thing to note is never to play familiar music through your headphones when doing this test. This is because you can easily make out the tune and lyrics when your favorite music is playing.
4. Can You Hear People Around You With Your Headphones On?
Perhaps the easiest way you can answer the question “how do you know if your headphones are too loud” is by simply seeing if you can hear a person sitting right next to you while using your headphones. Generally, it would help to make out what a person at arm’s length is saying even when listening to music.
If you can’t understand what they’re saying, the voice is muffled, distorted, or they’re forced to speak in a louder tone, it means that the headphone’s volume is too loud. In this case, you’d be doing your ears a favor by turning down the audio by a notch or two.
5. Keep A Close Eye On Your Volume Control
We know how tempting it can be to turn up the volume when an absolute banger comes up on your music playlist, but it’s almost always never worth the risk. It is essential to create safe listening practices to protect your hearing before irreversible damage occurs.
Many personal audio devices can generate sound around the 100-120 dB range on max volume, which can damage your ears in the long term. Always aim to keep your volume control at around 60% or lower for regular use.
You can occasionally go slightly above this percentage when you absolutely need to or when your favorite track comes on, but always try to never go above 80% volume for longer than 10-15 minutes.
It’s important to realize that hearing loss doesn’t usually occur overnight but takes a while. Constantly monitoring and keeping a close eye on your volume levels daily can go a long way in saving your ears. Trust the experts; you’ll thank them in the long run!
6. Use A Sound Meter To Measure The Loudness
Sound meters -also known as decibel meters- are commonly used devices to measure sound levels. They are often used in noisy environments and industries to assess whether the audio levels are within the established safe limits and standards. Most audiologists suggest that the cap for safe hearing lies in between the 60-80 decibels range.
You can measure the loudness of your headphones through sound meters by placing its mic near one of the ear cushions and looking at the readings on the sound meter. It should be between 60-80 decibels. If it’s higher, consider turni