Are you ready for a bit of science? Yes? Then let’s begin. We probably don’t need to tell you that shoving anything deep into your earholes could potentially be a bad idea. Your earbuds fire out sound. Contain it within the tiny echo chamber of your ear canal and, if you’re raising the volume to overcome loud environmental noise, you could be hitting your eardrums with 90 dB without even knowing it.
Spread this sound over a day’s listening and, according to the experts, you’re looking at subjecting yourself to the equivalent of a shotgun blast that somehow lasts a full 30 seconds (imagine that!). In context, that’s a really bad idea. Now, before you go binning your buds, know this: you’re unlikely to be listening at 90dB.
European audio devices are, by law, supposed to be limited to 85dB output without a warning, and a maximum of 100dB if you choose to ignore it. Regular comfortable listening volume generally falls below the 80dB mark considered safe by professionals, unless your lugs are as mangled as ours. Yes, the actual sound pressure in your ear depends on the type of isolating tips your buds have, and the impedance of your headphone drivers – as well as, to a certain extent, the type of music you’re listening to. Our favorite is Chris De Burgh’s The Traveller, so he’s never had any problems. If you’re sensible with your volume, you shouldn’t ever cause yourself any serious problems. If you’re truly worried, a set of bone-conduction headphones might well do the trick.
They use what we presume is actual magic to vibrate the bones within your skull to send sound to your brain. Since they bypass your eardrum entirely, producing no air pressure whatsoever, their output can’t actually be measured in decibels. The only real negative is that you can’t use something like the Aftershokz Sportz Titanium to rudely block out Mrs Guru’s mother’s incessant wittering. Not that, er, you’d want to.