Noise is everywhere, but the damaging volume is mostly in our own heads


For all the world’s noise, and we mapped it, there's very little quiet in the cities, the growing risk of hearing damage is not from traffic, heavy machinery or cacophonous urban soundscapes. It’s the sound we listen to in isolation inside our own heads – via our headphones and earbuds, that poses the growing risk to our hearing…

People everywhere wear their headphones and earbuds like an extra limb. An auxiliary sense. Headphones represent autonomy, control, a private cocoon of musical intimacy. The problem is that too often they are plugged into devices turned all the way up, and our sensitive human ears simply aren’t equipped to cope.

Pediatric audiologist Brian Fligor has studied the connection between headphones and hearing loss. Since the iPod was introduced in 2001, hearing loss has been an obvious problem among a growing number of younger patients. Fligor says:  “We are seeing pockets of young people who have worse hearing than you would expect, much worse hearing than you would expect.”

“Of course it depends on what you call major hearing loss, but there are a couple of cases (among children and teenagers) where using headphones contributed to a person’s hearing loss that was enough that they needed to use hearing aids,” Fligor said. “These cases generally involved other factors contributing to the problem but were mainly music-related.”

Once you lose your hearing, it’s permanent

That’s right. Permanent. This is why, at Mimi, besides our sound processing technology, we’re about preventing hearing damage, the importance of testing, and mitigating the onset of hearing loss. In short, we care about your ears.

And here’s a few things we want you to know.

Firstly, the golden rule, when it comes to loud, is simple: the louder the volume, the shorter the safe duration.

On your iPhone for example, the maximum volume is about 102 decibels. That’s about as loud as a chain saw. Of course the sound is more pleasant, but the damage is just as real.

An iPod’s maximum volume is more than 10 times as loud as the listening setting recommended by audiologists like Fligor. Prolonged listening at maxed up volume pretty much guarantees irreversible sensory damage.

So, what’s the safe way to listen?

If you keep the volume at 70 percent, or 82 decibels, you can listen safely for eight hours a day. Conversely, 80 percent volume, or 89 decibels, is safe for only 90 minutes.

And if you do turn it all the way up? Then, the safe listening period is all of 10 minutes.

Today’s headphones come with tons of features from wireless connectivity to noise-cancellation. But none of it counts if because you turn the volume so high you end up permanently damaging your hearing. Love music, embrace your headphones, but there’s no way round it: it’s time we all turned down the volume and turned up the personalization.

Start with The Mimi hearing test. (It’s free, fast and rated #1 on the App Store).

Or, check out products like Aventho, the first ever Mimi-personalized headphones that adjust sound to your hearing imperfections so you can listen in astonishing, immersive detail at low volume.

Whatever you do, remember your hearing is precious and too loud is the enemy of your ears. 

serena gorman