Product Reviews
Take Action

Fight for Fair Finance

Tell the administration and Congress to stand up for the consumer watchdog that protects you from financial fraud and abuse.
Take Action
Why Do We Have Campaigns?
We're fighting to ensure you and your family can get a fair deal in the marketplace, especially on the choices that matter most: health care, privacy, automobiles, food, finances and more. Join our campaigns and together, we'll hold corporations and lawmakers accountable.

How to Keep Your Ears Safe When Using Headphones and Earbuds

They can be. But simple steps can keep your ears safe.

Published: February 2014

Find Ratings

These Beats by Dre Executive headphones are our top-rated noise-canceling headphones.

You probably know that exposure to loud noise—including lawn mowers and rock concerts—can damage your hearing. But the latest research reveals a new hazard: personal listening devices (iPods and other MP3 players) that plant music directly into our ears—especially when we use them with earbuds that go inside the ear canal. How big is the risk? It depends on how loud the sound and how long you listen. But consider this: One in five teenagers are estimated to now have some form of hearing loss, nearly one-third more than teens in the 1980s and 1990s, which experts have attributed to the increased use of headphones and earbuds. 

The easiest way to reduce your risk of hearing loss from personal listening devices is to follow what hearing experts call the 60/60 rule: listen at no more than 60 percent of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes a day. Instead of earbuds, using over-the-ear headphones, especially the noise-canceling kind, may also prevent damage. 

And when you have to go somewhere noisy, try foam earplugs: They’re a low-tech, inexpensive way to protect your ears. You can find them at any drugstore for about $3.50 for a set of 10. Perhaps in a nod to baby boomers concerned about their hearing, earplugs are even sold at many concerts, right alongside the T-shirts. 

Concerned you might already have lost some hearing? Take our hearing loss quiz. If you're in the market for a hearing aid, see our hearing aids buying guide.

—Jamie Kopf

Editor's Note:

This article appeared in the March 2014 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters!
Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Electronics News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more