Headphones & Hearing Loss

Most folks consume workout music through headphones or earbuds–both of which are remarkably effective at damaging your ears. Put simply, losing your hearing is easier than you’d think. But, protecting it is equally simple. Having some experience on both sides of the equation, I wanted to write about some of the things I’ve tried–and what worked best–so you can tilt the odds in your favor.

I’ve always been–I thought–pretty prudent about protecting my hearing.
In particular, I’ve been diligent about wearing earplugs whenever I was in loud environments: working in a factory, DJing in clubs–even mowing the lawn. Occasionally, I’d hear ringing in my ears after certain activities, but it always went away after a few hours.

In my late 20s, I started to notice faint, high-pitched noise while lying in bed at night–even when I hadn’t been anywhere noisy in weeks. I started reading up immediately and came across the same three points repeatedly:

#1. Hearing loss is the third most common physical ailment in life (after arthritis and heart disease)
#2. Once the damage is done, it can’t be reversed
#3. Half of all cases can be prevented–by limiting exposure to loud noise

Headphones and earbuds are a particular cause for concern here for two main reasons:

*Permanent hearing loss begins around 85 decibels (dB)
*The average headphones/earbuds can produce sound between 100-110 dB

Since these numbers represented the likely cause of my issue, I started looking for new headphones that would provide more protection. The most promising find was a variety of pairs that combined noise reduction headsets on the outside with high fidelity speakers inside. Thankfully, there are a range of professionals who need need to receive detailed information clearly while working in noisy environments: police, racing pit crews, air traffic controllers, and so on. To that end, the headphones that meet these criteria have been available for awhile–but most through specialty catalogs geared toward specific lines of work.

After experimenting with a few options, I was most impressed by DS29 headphones. The outer shell blocks around 29 dB of outside sound–making it possible to hear your music clearly at lower, safer levels. In short, they let you turn down environmental noise–instead of turning up the volume to drown it out.

In theory, this solution is pretty straightforward. But, in practice, it’s remarkable. Namely, in the seven years since I switched to this style of headphones, my hearing seems to have stabilized. I still hear intermittent ringing–which is unavoidable given the permanence of hearing damage. But, it hasn’t gotten worse–which is something for which I’m profoundly grateful.

Based on the impact they’ve made in my life, I’ve begun working with the manufacturer to make their headphones available on this site.

At $130, they’re not cheap. Having said that, you’re not really paying for headphones. You’re paying for longer, better hearing.

I’m afraid that last point might sound like hyperbole, but it’s more a case of not knowing what you have until it’s gone. When my hearing was perfect, $130 seemed like a fortune to spend on headphones. When I realized I was damaging my hearing–and found a way to limit further harm–that same amount seemed like a bargain.

In conclusion, an average pair of headphones can produce more than enough sound to permanently impair your hearing. By limiting the volume of your music, while blocking outside noise, you can make your music sound clearer right now and help preserve your hearing going forward.

If either of those are priorities, you can pick up a pair of DS29 headphones–with free U.S. shipping–here.

Thanks either way!