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5 tips to prevent hearing loss caused by headphones

Many are concerned about their health and that of their children: vitamins, balanced diet, sunscreen, etc. However, we sometimes overlook certain health risks that we are exposed to every day. And this is the case of the sound level to which our ears are subjected daily.

Too much volume is dangerous, whether it comes from a concert or from your speakers. And headphones and earphones are in fact often the cause of hearing damage. In the past, their use was limited to the use of walkmans and other MP3 players. But today, they are ubiquitous: smartphones, PCs, consoles, tablets, etc. Children even use them when taking their lessons online. And us, the adults, during our meetings by videoconference.

So, if the presence of these devices has become so essential, how can we limit, or even avoid, the damage they can cause? Here are five tips to change your daily habits and effectively protect your ears, even if you can’t do without your headphones or earphones.

Protect yourself from permanent hearing loss

As we have just mentioned, it is difficult to do without headphones or earphones. So, let’s focus on what is really damaging in their use: excessive audio volume.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to determine what constitutes an unhealthy sound level. This is true for both adults and children, who often don’t even know that sound can harm them.

So how do we avoid subjecting our ears to unhealthy sound levels?

1. Use the right device

Quick tip: avoid headphones.

Headphones come in many shapes and sizes. The term covers everything from tiny wireless earbuds to in-ear headphones so bulky they look like you’ve strapped speakers to your head. Although they all have the potential to cause hearing damage, differences in design determine how easily they can produce lasting damage.

Earbuds are among the worst offenders, as most are designed to create a seal when inserted into the ear canal. These small silicone and foam tips amplify the bass produced by these small devices. But they also dramatically increase the pressure sound puts on your eardrums and the delicate anatomy of your inner ear by trapping all those sound waves.

Consider using an open-back helmet instead. This type of headset allows air to flow freely in and out of the earcups, reducing pressure on your ears by allowing sound waves to escape elsewhere. This is a pretty intuitive difference, if you think about it. Imagine a few pounds of pressure being applied to your body at a point as small as an earphone tip. It feels uncomfortable, maybe even painful, right? Now imagine that same weight being distributed over the three to four centimeter diameter area covered by most open-face helmet ear cups. Much less intimidating, and in this case, less damaging to your ears.

There’s a pitfall to be aware of: the urge to turn up the volume of your music or audio to compensate for ambient sound that can leak into open-back headphones. You should never use a high volume to compensate for the noise in your environment. This brings us to our next tip…

2. Don’t turn up the volume too much to drown out ambient noise

Quick Tip: Use ANC Headphones Instead

We’ve all taken noisy public transport, experienced an annoyingly laughing work colleague or a dog trying to tell the postman who’s boss. Often, we then take a headset to cover these distractions with even more sound. But then you add even more noise to an already dangerously noisy situation. And just because that new noise is your favorite music doesn’t mean it won’t damage your hearing.

ANC (active noise control) earphones or headphones, “active noise reduction” in French, eliminate incoming sound waves by creating opposing waves that meet them in the middle, which has the effect of weakening or eliminating the incoming waves before they reach your ears. This process allows headphones with ANC technology and larger headphones to block out sound without blocking outside air. Even if you don’t feel like listening to music or a podcast, you can still use the ANC feature of a pair of headphones, without streaming anything, to greatly reduce the damage that loud ambient noise could cause. .

If you just want some peace and quiet and prefer a budget option, use simple foam earplugs. They can block out between 32 and 38 decibels of sound, more than enough to turn audio bombardments capable of causing long-term damage into minor background hum.

3. Use headphones with clear sound and good quality

I imagine that a number of you are thinking, reading these lines, that these devices are expensive. Indeed, some are expensive. But that doesn’t mean clear, quality sound has to be expensive. There are some great inexpensive options out there that offer clear sound. And this is important, because a clear sound at a low volume helps to avoid dangerously increasing the sound.

Have you ever missed a cue while watching TV, because your TV speakers are too small? In general, we then go back, increase the volume and listen again. This habit also exists with headphones and earphones, but you might not even realize it if you’ve never experienced crisp, clear sound.

Too many modern headphones are designed to sound loud and too bassy. Instead, opt for a device that prioritizes the clarity of vocals and instruments. You’ll enjoy your music and sound more, and you’ll be able to listen at lower volumes while enjoying the same level of audio richness.

4. Take a break

Most sources on hearing preservation will tell you that taking breaks from hearing damage allows your ears to recover. That’s absolutely true, but there’s also another reason for taking a break that most boards ignore: volume drift.

The longer you listen to music or videos, the more likely you are to increase the volume gradually and without thinking. A quiet moment, a particularly quiet piece of music, or an outside noise are all distracting factors. Whatever the cause, we often gradually increase the volume to compensate…then leave it as it is.

Being exposed to louder volumes often causes the lower sound quality to be perceived as inferior. But that same reduced volume will be absolutely fine if you’re taking a short, quiet break.

I often watch television in the evening, turn it off like this and be shocked the next morning by the volume of the latter. It’s a perfect example of how easily you can damage your hearing without realizing it. Pauses allow our perception and physical anatomy to reset to the point of being able to recognize when the volume has reached unhealthy sound levels.

5. Use software or device to limit the volume

There are many ways to limit the maximum volume of almost any electronic device, although the method varies depending on the type of device and the operating system it uses, if any.

Windows PC: Windows, no matter which modern version you are using, does not offer an effective way to limit the volume. It is better to download a free third-party application to do this job. Some great options include Quiet on the Set, which lets you set a passcode-locked limit so your kids can’t crank up the volume to 11 while you’re not watching, or Sound Lock. , which features a simple volume limit button on your taskbar. Both of these options work for any connected audio output device, including headphones and speakers.

Mac: macOS makes this task a little more complicated. The easiest option is a paid app called Earsafe. This app, which costs five dollars, adds a volume limiter with individualized limit sliders for each type of sound output (speakers, headphones, etc.). You can control your volume using the command line and AppleScript, as shown in this article on Medium.

iOS: Apple has been much more diligent about adding hearing protection features in iOS than in macOS, which makes this very easy. Go to settings on your iPhone or iPad, and click Sounds and vibration > Earphone safety. In this section you can choose to enable the feature Reduce loud sounds. Just turn it on and use the slider to choose your preferred volume limit.

Android: the more divergent nature of Android means that some manufacturers include volume limits on their smartphones and tablets, while others do not. For this reason, we will focus on third-party solutions that any Android user can download. Some of the most popular currently on Google Play include Voli: Volume Limiter for Kids, which allows you to limit the sound volume using a password that parents can control, and Volume Limiter, which offers a similar feature for all ages.

For everything else? Unfortunately, not all devices support software to limit maximum volumes. Game consoles, in particular, don’t offer easy ways to control the maximum volume of connected headphones, even though their target audience includes many young users who may not be aware that they need to protect their ears.

In these kinds of situations, we recommend opting for headphones with built-in volume limitations. Options like the include a switch that lets you limit the volume to 85dB or 94dB, and come in a variety of colors your kids are likely to enjoy. Bluetooth options are also available.


Hearing is a precious thing for those of us who are lucky enough to have it. Unfortunately, when the delicate anatomy that makes it possible is damaged, it is often impossible to find what has been lost. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to how we treat our ears. If you make a habit of using just one of the suggestions in this guide, you will help protect your hearing well-being throughout your life.

To note : the information in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes. They should not be considered health or medical advice. If you have a medical problem, or need health advice, always consult a doctor or qualified healthcare professional.


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