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What To Look For in Headphones

You have an MP3 player, but you feel like something is missing, because you need a good pair headphones to go with it for listening purposes. These accessories come in a wide variety of styles, colors, and sizes and also tend to differ in terms of their audio quality and comfort level. Most are made of foam or rubber and often include a vinyl covering, although other types have grown in prominence of late.

How Do I Determine Control Settings?

The maximum recommended noise level of headphones is 85 decibels, so to ensure that the audio stays at a safe level, look for those that offer volume-limiting control.

  • Hearing Loss: Headphones with volume control protect against noise-induced hearing loss or prolonged exposure to loud noise. When exposed to loud sounds over extended periods, the sensitive structures in your inner ear can become damaged.
  • Time Limitations: It's wise to consider limiting your time spent using headphones to two hours a day, even with volume control in place. Generally speaking, the louder the listening volume, the shorter your duration should be. 

Which Features Should I Look For?

Headphones with volume control come with a wide array of features, so opt for those that fit the way you tend to listen to music. Some units can even double as headsets and feature an inline microphone.

  • Noise Cancellation: Noise-cancelling units reduce the perceived noise from external environments. In the correct listening environment, noise-canceling headsets can successfully block out sound, but the fact that they can only remove certain frequencies and types of noise limit their overall appeal. For those on an airplane looking to drown out noise, noise-canceling headsets are ideal; however, for those who may prefer listening to music while riding their bike or running on the open road, these headphones present several dangers since they limit your awareness to your surrounding environment.
  • Cord Length: The length of headphone cables tends to vary, while some varieties are wireless. The latter does not need to be plugged in and is instead controlled by Bluetooth technology. Determining the ideal length is often a matter of personal preference and is based on how you intend to use the headphones. For increased versatility, some headphone cables offer adjustable lengths, allowing you to lengthen or shorten the cable as needed. Extension cables and cable wraps are also available for adjusting purposes, and units that use cables generally have a 6.35 or 3.5 mm connection for plug-in purposes.
  • Comfort Level: Headphones with volume control should offer optimal comfort. This is especially important for those who listen to their devices, whether it's a stereo, an MP3 player, or an iPhone, for prolonged periods. As such, keep ear-pad material in mind when shopping for over-the-ear varieties and look for ear pads made of memory foam or another soft, pliable material. A vinyl covering around the foam padding can also offer increased comfort, and the headband itself should be adjustable so as not to fit too snugly or loosely. Additionally, a lack of cushioning in earbuds (for those who prefer that form) can cause them to dig into your ears, creating discomfort.
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