Can You Hear Me Now?

Earphone safety made simple

BHM Edit Staff | Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Protect your ears from noise-induced hearing loss.

Earphones and ear buds are everywhere. On a recent commuter train ride, more than 90 percent of my car had one or the other attached to their ears. The music made the crowded commute pass quickly, but since I could hear the faint hum of tunes from other people's iPhones, I wondered how many riders are already suffering some hearing damage. And since these were adults doing the loud listening, I doubt they are cautioning their teens (who seem to need their buds surgically removed) about the dangers of pumping up the volume.

Here’s the problem: Many devices allow volume outputs to go higher than 85 decibels, and listeners don’t realize the long-term effects on their hearing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have noise-induced hearing loss. As many as 16 percent of teens have some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise is permanent.

But you can prevent the damage from your earphones by following these tips:

  • Choose a sound-isolating model. These block the right proportion of high and low frequencies, so you can hear your music at a lower volume. Some models have a restriction on how high you can turn up the volume, which can be an especially good model for your children.
  • Balance volume and length of listening. Experts recommend the 80/90 rule, where you listen at 80 percent volume for no more than 90 minutes, or the 60/60 rule, which calls for listening at 60 percent volume for an hour.
  • Try taking a daily magnesium supplement. An Israeli military study found that a 167-milligram dose offers prevention protection.