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Do over ear headphones cause hearing damage at low volume?

JadenCH

So basically, I recently acquired over-ear headphones and my mother is concerned about hearing loss. Would I be fine if I kept the volume very low (as I do)? 

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Any headphones should be perfectly safe as long as you listen at a volume which is low enough to not damage your hearing. I work with sound and know sound techs, we use over-ear headphones all day, every day, provided they are comfortable and of decent enough quality you should be absolutely fine.

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Heres a good example,  On android, they lock you in to safe ranges.

 

Just keep it around half, and listen awayImage result for android volume safety

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Why would they? Unless they're churning out something in the mid 80s at low volume you'd be very hard pressed to fuck up your hearing.

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Yes, if you use them for extended time. Only part of the problem is the loudness. Proximity will also get you.

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Over ear is preferred when wearing them long term by many people, as over the course of a few hours your ears are just crushed and in pain by on ears (personal experience). I work with pro sound myself and can tell you that any headphone or earbud can damage your hearing if you leave it at a high enough volume for long enough (like the people on the train or in class where you can hear their music through their earbuds). Unless you already have hearing damage, you'll be able to tell when it's too loud as it will become uncomfortable to listen to. Just use your best judgement and you'll be fine. 

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Unfortunately since different headphones have different efficiencies the general rules of thumb around system volume aren't all that useful. However, if you know the specs of your given headphones it's pretty easy to tell what's safe.

 

The Sennheiser HD 650, for instance, is rated at 103dB/1Vrms. The safe 85dB level is 0.13Vrms. The headphone amplifier on a Realtek ALC1150 codec is rated 1.1Vrms max. 30/100 Windows volume is -18dB attenuation, so even a full scale signal (which never happens in music) at anything below this level is safe to listen to essentially indefinitely. For a more realistic load, the RMS level of music is almost always more than 10dB below full scale, giving 60/100 as a more realistic safe loudness.

 

That's really loud. Listening to that on its own, maybe even uncomfortably so. That's the point, really: headphones aren't inherently causing hearing damage. It's raising the volume to try to block out outside noises that's really damaging hearing. The subway, heavy traffic, or a particularly loud public place can all approach 90dB – consider someone trying to listen to music in such an environment. Given the background noise, the music doesn't sound all that loud in the moment, but can be downright painful if listened to at the same levels in a more quiet environment.

 

 

 

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Considering that in one venue we had 6x1200w subs that we tested at their highest output and frequency that they produced it (IDK what it was I wasn't really involved) And that peaked at about 104db. 

The overall average for that concert was 102db, and my ears are still fine, its not really a big deal as many headphones won't go near 85db in normal usage 

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It isn't entirely sound level but sound dose. Current EU directive has action levels when noise does hits 80 and 85 dBA. The noise does is the equivalent continuous level over 8 hours. If you take the 85 dBA action level, then the chart in the 2nd post shows how the level can increase if you trade it against reduced duration. A double or halving of time shifts the dose 3 dB.

 

The Android warning in post 4 is something different, and concerns rules over "portable music player" devices. I can't remember the exact levels, but from memory the maximum permissible level that can be reproduced after activating the override is 100 dBA. I think the warning threshold is set at 85, but don't quote me on that. The idea of that regulation is that players can output a certain level. Headphones used with them have a certain maximum sensitivity. Put together, they should produce controlled levels. Note that just because you set the player to max volume doesn't mean you're getting hit by 100 dBA, it depends how close both the player and headphones are to their respective limits. The measurement method takes into consideration how headphones are worn. Also beware not all devices will fall under this regulation. Headphones which by their design are optimised for indoor use wouldn't fit under the "portable" part, even if you can easily use it outdoors too. A laptop also wouldn't be considered portable in this sense.

 

As a rough guideline, if you notice lowered hearing sensitivity after listening to music, turn it down next time. That's temporary threshold shift and is a defense mechanism against sustained loud noises. It doesn't matter in the short term but will contribute to a long term gradual hearing loss. See it like smoking. A single dose doesn't make much difference, but it adds up over the years.

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39 minutes ago, porina said:

if you notice lowered hearing sensitivity after listening to music, turn it down next time.

Thats the easiest advice to follow that I always forget about when people ask me about things like this.

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