Which is your choice? Do you prefer the snug fit of the in-earbuds sitting neatly inside your ear canal, or the gentle hug of a pair of cushiony outer-ear headphones resting on your head?
How do you usually make your choice? Is it based on comfort, or sound quality, or both? There is of course, a third consideration: Which one is most likely to harm your hearing?
When trying on a new pair of headphones or earbuds, comfort is obviously a factor as the better they fit the less likely they will be to let in sound from outside, and the less likely you will be to turn them up too high.
Loose fitting headphones will deliver inferior sound, as will loose fitting earbuds. On each ill-fitting device, the temptation will be strong get more volume, and this can lead to damaging levels of sound, especially with earbuds. The difference being that an earbud generally delivers sound of around 9 dB higher than headphones, due to being closer to the eardrum.
Protect your ears
Loud sounds are the most damaging to your hearing and any noises above 85 dB should be avoided. Some personal listening devices limit their volume at a certain point, but many do not and while they can produce sound at up to 120 dB, they often won’t warn you when it’s dangerously noisy. You should also limit how long you listen to louder than usual noises, as sustained exposure is dangerous. Generally speaking, the louder the noise, the shorter you should be listening to it.
Damage from loud noises of prolonged duration, such as music, can be irreversible. Once your hearing is damaged, it’s damaged for good. This is a shame as such damage is also easily avoided. All you have to do is take the right precautions.
Consider fit and quality
Once you’ve found the right fit for your ear, whether inner ear with earbuds, or outer ear with headphones, the next criteria is sound quality. If your headphones are a good, tight fit then hopefully they won’t be letting in outside noises, and therefore it’s less likely that you’ll need to have them turned up so high.
Good quality brands of earbuds and headphones will deliver better quality sound, with fewer distortions and even offer noise cancelling to keep unwanted sounds out.
The short answer to the above query is that poor quality earbuds are on average the most damaging, especially if they are ill fitting and of poor quality, leading to strange and harmful distortions of sound.
Limit listening time
Whichever you choose, you should always try to limit your listening time, not just to loud sounds but also to sustained noise, and also because wearing headphones for more than just an hour will increase the bacteria in your ears by over ten times the normal amount. This is nothing to be concerned about though, as you just need to let your ears breathe once in a while.
So, get good quality, snug fitting headphones and take them off every now and then to enjoy your music and keep your learning longer.