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Do You Hear What I Hear?

Christmas warning on headphones hearing damage

With headphones, smart phones, tablets and other personal devices topping the Christmas gift lists, Hidden Hearing has issued a warning about safe volume levels for festive music and movie choices.

Research has shown that a third of Irish people who listen to music on a mobile phone or device such as an MP3 player are listening at dangerously high levels, and for twice as long as is safe.

High volumes, anything over 100 decibels/dB, is the top setting on most personal devices, and is the equivalent of noise levels from a jet airplane taking-off or a rock concert.

The advice from Hidden Hearing audiologists is to follow the 60/60 rule when listening to music using headphones – listening levels up to 60% of the maximum volume, for a total of 60 minutes a day.

On average, however, people listen to music on their device for almost two hours (113 minutes) a day, the survey showed.

Almost half of Irish adults (48%) listen to music using in-ear earphones, which can potentially cause more hearing damage than headphones.  This climbs to 74% among 18-24 year olds.

In-ear buds, often used by children on tablets and phones, offer less protection than headphones, according to Dolores Madden, who is an audiologist and the Hidden Hearing Marketing Director.

“It’s not so much the noise, but the sound pressure with ear buds that can cause harm.  It goes straight into the inner ear canal, and is dangerous if people are listening for long periods at maximum volume”, she says.

The message is, turn down the volume and let your ears do what they are designed for, the audiologist advises.

“Our ears are very sophisticated listening devices already that will expertly deliver the best sound experience without the need to blast out noise” Dolores Madden explains.

The incidence of hearing loss in younger people is increasing, which Hidden Hearing audiologists attribute to the overuse of earphones and devices that are set too loud.

Worryingly, almost one in five people surveyed (17%) deliberately set the volume to maximum loudness.   And, one in ten people aged 25-34 said they would not be worried by permanent ringing or buzzing in their ears, demonstrating a lack of awareness of the damage and risks associated with sustained exposure to loud noise.

Tinnitus, ringing in ears, usually begins at 127 dB, and can be an early indicator of hearing loss.

With one in 2 young people, aged 18-24, showing early signs of noise-induced hearing loss, the Hidden Hearing research backs an EU study last year, claiming that by 2020 it may be commonplace for 10% of 30 year olds to be wearing a hearing aid.

The World Health Organisation estimates that up to one third of hearing loss in the world’s population is preventable, so boosting awareness of dangerous noise levels is important.



  • If listening with headphones to your personal device, you should be able to clearly hear someone talking to you in a normal voice at arm’s length away.
  • Set a safe listening limit on your devices.  Go to ‘settings’ to override the 100dB (decibel) volume limit setting – around 60dB is best.
  • Observe the 60/60 rule – listen at 60% of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes a day, and take regular break


Over the past 30 years, Hidden Hearing has evolved to become the premier provider of professional hearing healthcare in the private sector, with a network of over 80 clinics on the island of Ireland, providing free hearing tests to more than 60,000 people every year. Book your free hearing test today by calling 1850 80 40 50 or by clicking here.


Empathy Research survey commissioned by Hidden Hearing, 2017

Global stats from WHO

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