Investigating preferred listening levels when using noise-canceling headphones among male graduate students

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Xiyan DaiLee Yu-Chi

Abstract: Many pieces of the literature showed that the potential risk of hearing loss was increasing among the general public, especially in adolescents and young adults, caused by prolonged exposure to loud music. Users tended to listen to music with a higher volume in noisy environments (e.g., intersections and subways) than in quiet ones. According to the WHO-ITU standard level for adults (80 dBA for 40 hours a week), the listening habits worse than the recommended standard might cause hearing damage. At present, the increasingly popular Noise-canceling headphones (NCHs) can reduce environmental noise to a certain extent. Whether users would lower the volume of music when using an NCH is a concern of the research. NCHs have different listening modes for dealing with ambient noise. Hence, the primary purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of different NCHs modes on pedestrians’ preferred listening levels (PLLs) in a noisy environment and to evaluate whether their listening levels were in a safe range.Methods: Fifteen male graduate students with normal-hearing ability participated in the study. The independent variable was the modes of NCHs, including Noise Cancellation (NC), Off, and Transparency modes. The PLLs were determined by each participant and recorded as the dependent variable. Before the experiments, participants were asked to report their headphone-use habits for assessing whether they exceeded a safe listening level. During the experiments, the ambient noise of heavy traffic intersections was played through two speakers. Participants were asked to put on the headphone with a specific mode by random orders. Subsequently, each participant was requested to adjust the volume of the music until it “sounded best.” The measurements were repeated twice for the three modes. A one-way repeated measure ANOVA with Bonferroni pairwise comparisons was used for statistical analysis. Results: The results indicated that the headphone modes significantly impacted the PLLs (p<0.001). Based on the Bonferroni pairwise comparisons, participants selected the highest PLLs with the Transparency mode (67.21 dBA), followed by the Off mode (60.77 dBA), and NC mode (55.83 dBA). Besides, the self-reported results showed that the usage of headphones was five days per week and three hours per day on average. From the results, the PLLs selected by the subjects were all lower than 80 dBA, and the average listening time did not exceed 40 hours per week. It implied that the participants' listening habits were at safe listening levels. Conclusion: In a noisy environment, different headphone modes have impacted on PLLs adjustment. The PLLs selected with the NC mode are significantly lower than those with Off mode and Transparency mode. The findings of this study suggested that using NC mode in a noisy environment could reduce the risk of hearing loss compared to the other headphone modes.

Keywords: Keywords: Noise-canceling Headphones, Preferred Listening Levels, Hearing Loss, Hearing Protection, Safe Listening Level

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1001705

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