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I can’t hear you! Headphones & Earbuds – part 3

In part 1 and part 2 of “I can’t hear you! Headphones & Earbuds” I discussed the pleasures and the problems with listening to music on iPhones or MP3 players in public places.

Even after all the alarming news I shared about listening to MP3 Players, you may still want to continue enjoying listening to your MP3 player. You can. Here some recommendations for how you can listen AND eliminate the dangers to your hearing.


Replace your earbuds with headphones that encase your entire ear, ANC headphones, or in-ear-canal headphones. These all filter out or cancel out much more environmental noise. As a result of that you can reduce the volume required to hear even soft music. Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) actually measure external noise and then immediately feed an inverse sound signal that effectively cancels out the external noise. These allow you to reduce volume significantly and still hear the full dynamic range of music. The best known example of this is Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones. I have not tried the better quality in-ear-canal headphones. I had a cheaper pair but found they did not fit well and felt strange. I much prefer the ANC approach from my limited experience.

iPods have a “Volume Limiter” feature. Setting it to a lower level will help. Unfortunately, different earbuds and headphones have different output levels, so choosing a limit is quite subjective. A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t hear your own voice clearly when listening to a louder passage of music on your iPod it’s too loud.

Reduce the amount of time and the frequency that you listen to music with headphones.

For a more in depth study of hearing protection technologies for music listened to with MP3 players and from external noise see this


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