holding headphones

Welcome to the headphone generation. It’s real thing — the technology industry is run by millennials, those aged 18 to 34 years and 53 percent of that group owns three or more pairs of headphones! That is according to a survey conducted last year by SOL REPUBLIC, a music lifestyle brand. Take a quick look at the other results of this survey:

  • 55 percent use different headphones for different activities (work, gym, relaxing)
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  • 75 percent rely on headphones for music to relax
  • 48 percent wear headphones every day
  • 73 percent wear headphones to avoid interactions
    (via PR Newswire)

Obviously, headphone wearing is well past its Walkman days. With synthetic audio so close to the eardrum on such a regular basis, you have to wonder if there’s any damage being done. Since the 1990s, there has been a 30-percent increase in hearing loss among teens, and some experts point to headphones as the main culprit. It takes about 75 minutes of straight headphone usage at 120 decibels to cause actual hearing loss, according to a statement from James Foy, MD, to the American Osteopathic Association, or AOA.

>> Check it out: Get Your Kiddo to Put Down the iPad and Eat Some Veggies

What are decibels and how can you measure them? Decibels are the measuring unit of sound, and you can measure it by using specific devices. Only trained ears can hear something and guesstimate a number of decibels. For you, there’s an app for that. Use technology to gauge technology by installing an app and double checking the volume. Dr. Foy told the AOA that headphones should not exceed 60 percent of the max volume. For daily activities, the ears can safely handle a constant 85 dB while anything higher than 90 to 115dB should be limited to minutes or even seconds. Here’s a list of apps you can try to help you figure it out:

  • dB Volume Meter: Created for the iPhone, you can customize the decibel level to your environment. This means it incorporates the final measurement by including the sounds around you, not just the sounds coming through the headphones. Get it here.
  • deciBel: Developed for Android users, it also measures the sounds around you and creates helpful charts and graphs that are easily read and interpreted by the user. Get it here.
  • Decibel Ultra: A universal app that provides the decibel levels for your surroundings and e-mails results to you if you want. See more here.

It’s important to note that these apps are not the most accurate decibel readers, so if you’re really trying to measure sound, you should get a specific tool for it. Otherwise, take the measurements and apply it to your comfort level. If you use an app and it reads 80 dB, but you feel like that’s too loud, then know you prefer 70 dB or less, according to the way the app measures sound.

headphones on bus

What if you already have symptoms of hearing loss? If you frequently have a ringing or buzzing noise in your ear, audio seems muffled like your ear is plugged or you’re turning up the volume on devices much higher than in the past, you could be dealing with some hear loss. Call your doctor and make an appointment or ask for a referral to a hearing specialist to be tested.

How loud is too loud? If you insist on having your headphones in for several hours a day, make sure they’re set to a volume where you can still hear some voices around you. Noise-canceling headphones might be a healthier option aside from being posed as the more desirable option. The reason behind that is they cancel out the background noise so the user doesn’t feel like he or she needs to increase the volume simply to outplay the background audio. Keep the headphone usage to a minimum in capacity of both time and volume.

>> Ditch the headphones: 40 Healthy Ways to Relax and De-Stress