March 22, 2006
Noise cancelling earplugs and hearing loss prevention

Wired writes about the dangers of playing too loud music (WN: How to prevent hearing loss), something every audiophile should be wary about.

Some important lessons (but do read the whole article):

the iPod is one of the loudest portable music players around, with a high output of 30 mW per channel.
Use sound-isolating or noise-canceling headphones Many people turn their MP3 players up to unsafe volumes to compete with background noise, because in order to hear a song clearly and with a full dynamic range, you need a good amount of signal-to-noise ratio. Rather than turning up your volume, you can achieve the same effect by lowering the "noise" part of the equation. Use sound-isolating headphones (I recommend earbuds from Shure or Etymotic) or noise-canceling headphones (Blomberg recommends the Bose QuietComfort 2).
Remember to turn down, too: Often, when I'm walking around listening to music, I'll keep ratcheting up the volume every time there's a quiet song or loud background noise, until my overall volume is way too loud (sort of like boiling a lobster by gradually raising the temperature of the water). When you can, try turning it down a notch and seeing if your song still sounds as good.
I use my Etymotic ER-6 noise cancelling earplugs as often as I can when I travel. You don't notice how loud the background noise in passenger jets are until you've got noise cancellation! My latest discovery now is that the Erymotics go really well with watching films / TV shows on the PSP...

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