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Category Archives: Headphones

What Beats by Dre Are Actually Doing to Your Ears

Dr. Dre

Last week, Apple purchased Beats Music for $3 billion — the largest acquisition the company has ever made. With it, the company acquired Dr. Dre and longtime Interscope Geffen A&M Records executive Jimmy Iovine, the men behind Beats and a “sound revolution” who are actually doing irrevocable damage to our ability to appreciate music.

They aren’t alone in it. Beats is just the biggest representative of the cultural trend of constant headphone use, and the silent epidemic that has come with it.

Dre and Iovine’s headphones are engineered so that you “hear your music the way the artist would play it back” — specifically, the way hip-hop and rap artists, like Dre, would want to play it back: with a lot of bass, in the way that leads to hearing loss. For most high-quality headphone brands, that’s the sell.

Beats’ headphones have been flaunted in rap music videos and touted as expensive fashion accessories, creating a commercialized hip-hop culture that stems from the celebrity of Dre’s production history. As a result, much of Beats’ engineered appeal is in its emphasis on low, bass-heavy frequencies of the “Xxplosive” sort. It makes sense: Rap and hip-hop are often characterized by their heavy, booming bass lines. And while a human ear normally registers frequencies anywhere between 20 Hz and 20 kHz (or 20,000 Hz), the sub-bass sounds in rap songs, like a classic 808 drum kick, will range as low as 80 to 20 Hz. The lowest A on a piano, for example, vibrates somewhere around 25 Hz. In order to hear those notes, you have turn the volume way up.

Frequencies that are often “felt” through stereo systems are what Beats and other high-end headphones aim for — that’s the way the artist produced it in the studio. But sometimes, those bass-heavy details can be too much. While Beats can recreate the feel of a tight, punchy bassline, a boomier backdrop, like Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M,” has the tendency to overpower and weaken a song’s mid-tones, things like guitars and voices. So in addition to having louder bass from the get-go, listeners often turn up headphone volume in order to hear those higher frequencies, and consequently “feeling” the bass affects our ears even more. Deeper bass means louder playback, especially when we’re listening to the sort of hyper-compressed, ear-fatiguing music that is associated with mainstream pop and hip-hop. And it’s nothing new that prolonged exposure to loud music, especially through headphones, causes hearing loss.

It’s considered safe listening to music at 85 decibels or lower. Crank your Beats all the way up to their 115-decibel peak (the kind of volumes you might reach when on a loud train) and you could experience severe hearing loss after just 15 minutes of listening every day. When our ears are frequently exposed to high decibels, the inner ears’ hair-like fibers, called stereocilia, which are responsible for activating frequencies of particular sounds, can be permanently damaged over time. This can lead to noise-induced hearing loss, which is often ignored, or tinnitus — aka that buzzing in your ears after a night of loud music. Even though that buzz may be gone by the morning, its damaging effects can linger.

And we may just keep turning it up. While many have already anticipated a deafness epidemic, it seems increasingly likely. In 2010, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 1 in 5 U.S. teens already suffer from hearing loss, and 1 in 20 have “mild or worsening” symptoms. So if Beats is leading a sonic revolution, it’s worth remembering: Sometimes revolutions end badly.



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Young Adults Should Prepare for Hearing Loss

One in four 18-44-year-olds using headphones reports hearing problems, a study shows.

More and more people have trouble hearing. Especially young people are at risk, as they often use headphones at a loud volume. This is also the case for young adults in New York City, i.e. the city that never sleeps.party_bar_pattaya_for_sale2

According to a study, one in four young New York adults aged 18-44 reports hearing loss and hearing problems are found in 23% of people who use headphones at a high volume at least five days a week for four hours a day. Overall, 16 % of adult New Yorkers have hearing problems.

Researchers conclude that if young adults frequently use headphones at a loud volume, they should be prepared to deal with ringing in their ears or hearing loss as a result.

Heavy headphone use

According to the study, younger adults frequently listen to music on headphones at a high volume. Prolonged young-teenagers-listening-to-music-12047932exposure to loud levels of noise may cause irreversible damage to the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss, tinnitus or both.

Young adults, who regularly use headphones at a loud volume, are more than twice as likely to have hearing problems, than those who do not.

About the study

The study is a survey from 2011 carried out by the New York City Department of Health.

For the researchers, the message is clear: people need to turn down the volume on their headphones if they want to protect their ears from damage.

Source: New York Daily News

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The Cynaps Bone Conduction Hat

This year the Better Hearing Blog has brought some pretty interesting products to our readers. In March we introduced you to the Hi-Fun Bluetooth Gloves and more recently in September we discussed the Nu Wave Bone Conduction Glasses. Today we’re happy to bring you Max Virtual’s Cynaps Hat – the world’s first bone conduction hat!906883_503911053002130_405387638_o

To the casual observer, Cynaps might look like an ordinary baseball hat. But flip it over, and you’ll see bone conduction wiring threaded through its band. Tucked into the bill is a larger control panel with three buttons. Attached to it is another wire with a microphone.

Pair the hat via Bluetooth with your cell phone, and you can listen to music, make phone calls, or talk to Siri or even Google Now. Hands-free audio accessories are nothing new, but you’ve probably never seen one that’s ear-free.

How does bone conduction audio work? Well, the hat’s tiny transducers transmit vibrations into your skull, those vibrations make their way into your inner ear, and you interpret it as sound, in much the same way as the eardrum transmits vibrations that pass through the air.3227189_orig

The hat itself is standard enough. It’s made of a thin, machine-washable fabric and has a Velcro strap in the back that lets you adjust the fit (making it tighter helps with the sound).

The controller that lives in the bill (it’s also where the 1,000 mAh battery is housed) has three buttons on it. You can quickly learn their functions to pause/play music, answer or end phone calls, and adjust volume. It’s in a convenient spot to reach up and push the buttons, though it’s also big enough to feel a bit obtrusive hiding under the bill.

At first, listening to music on Cynaps seems very ordinary. This is because it sounds like there’s a tiny speaker in the hat, which everyone around you can hear. But take the hat off, or give it to a friend to use, and you can barely hear anything. You hear about as much as you would from a friend wearing headphones. That’s when it really sinks in that the sounds you were hearing were transmitted through your skull.cynaps-bluetooth-hat-590x331

The audio itself is nothing special. It’s kind of like listening to AM radio over a pair of old headphones. Okay, it actually sounds a little better than that, but you get the picture.

Sound is a bit muddy, without a lot of crisp separation between trebles, mid-range, and bass. You can make it sound better by tightening the Velcro strap (as much as is comfortably possible) and adjusting the angle of the rim. You can also improve the audio by covering your ears, or wearing earplugs – though that basically defeats the entire purpose.

On the other hand, we can only be so picky here. I mean, you’re hearing sound transmitted through your head. The human skull wasn’t made with the iPhone in mind, and it didn’t evolve with Beats Audio. You aren’t buying bone conduction devices like Cynaps for their high fidelity. You’re buying them to experience sound without inviting your outer ears to the party.

This can have its applications. Like riding a bicycle or motorcycle, or other times when you want to hear the audio and your surroundings. Since the audio is traveling through your head rather than air, it’s also a little less prone to getting drowned out when there’s a lot of background noise.bone_zps451bdff1

Some people who are hard of hearing can also benefit from bone conduction audio. There are more specialized products for those uses, including an upcoming one from Max Virtual.

Max Virtual has not only delivered wearable technology that delivers on the “fun” aspects of wearable tech. The company has also made a breakthrough to delivering wearable technology that can truly “enhance” peoples’ lives in the truest sense of the word. Part of the beauty of the Cynaps platform and technology is that it easily lends itself to these different applications. We love the music. And restoring hearing at price points 30 times less than what is currently possible is a great achievement and a beautiful thing. Cynaps delivers both.

For more information or to purchase a Cynops hat, visit the Max Virtual website.

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Former Oasis Guitar Player Noel Gallagher Diagnosed With Tinnitus

The former Oasis star Noel Gallagher has been diagnosed with tinnitus, the hearing condition which causes ringing in the ears.


Noel Gallagher joins the list of famous rock musicians who suffer from tinnitus.

After having played guitar for the last 20 years, Noel Gallagher has received a diagnosis for the constant ringing in his ears. The 45-year-old musician went for a brain scan at the hospital, where doctors uncovered tinnitus as being the reason for the recurring buzzing in his ears.

“I went for a brain scan. They did find it. I’ve got bizarre ringing in my ears. I think it’s just through playing guitar for the last 20 years so I had to sit in a tube in the hospital,” Noel Gallagher said in an interview with the British DJ Andy Goldstein.

Noel Gallagher performing at Coachella with his band Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Rock musicians suffer from tinnitus. A high-level volume combined with heavy bass tones has been part of most musicians’ careers. Rock bands in particular are well-known for their habit of reaching volumes that are perilously close to causing severely-reduced hearing and tinnitus.

For instance, Coldplay front man Chris Martin, Queen drummer Roger Taylor and The Who’s Pete Townshend have on earlier occasions talked about their sufferings from tinnitus.

Pete Townshend walks off stage saying the sound was just too loud for his ears

This past year at a show in Sunrise, Florida, Pete Townshend, who has battled with tinnitus and hearing loss for many years, left a show during an encore of ‘You Better You Bet’. Before leaving the stage, Townshend reportedly appeared unhappy with the sound levels onstage, shouting “too loud” at the sound engineer before walking off. When the rest of the band continued into ‘Baba O’ Riley’ to end the show, he didn’t reappear.

Hearing loss can be prevented. Being exposed to loud noises is a natural part of everyday life for many people, be it at work, in traffic or at a café. Preventative measures may therefore be paramount in situations such as rock concerts, where it is common to be exposed to noise levels above the recommended maximum level of 85dB.

A set of earplugs can make a huge difference when exposed to loud music or other noises. They can be bought in most pharmacies and supermarkets, and when employed can reduce noise by 20-30dB.

Good Advice. Veteran guitar player Paul Gilbert (from Mr. Big and Racer X) has hearing loss that is so bad that he now is forced to wear hearing aids. Gilbert

Rock guitar player Paul Gilbert suffers from hearing loss and now wears hearing aids

Rock guitar player Paul Gilbert suffers from hearing loss and now wears hearing aids

wishes he had done a few things differently in his life. He wishes he had followed the following simple advice when he was younger and he also wishes that he could still follow a conversation without experiencing problems.

Paul Gilbert has therefore compiled a list of things he would advise other musicians and music lovers to do if they want to retain their hearing and avoid tinnitus. Among other things:

  • Do not sit with your ears right up next to your speakers when music is playing, regardless of how much you love the sound and the music.
  • Do not turn your headphones up too loud when, for example, listening to your favourite number.
  • Do not crank-up your car stereo when you’re out driving.
  • If you are a musician and in the studio, you should not sit and record for 14 hours a day with the metronome turned right up in your headphones.
  • Do not try and edit music in spaces which are not suitable for the job. This can lead to frustration and confusion around the acoustic image and can often result in you turning up the volume even more so as to get a better picture of the individual instruments.
  • Don’t play cool in situations where the music is too loud. Put your fingers in your ears or leave the room.

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Headphones From Reclaimed Wood Benefit Hard of Hearing Children


If the majority of music instruments (guitars, pianos, violins, drums… etc.) are made out of wood, why aren’t headphones?

That’s one of the founding principles of LSTN Headphones, the small Los Angeles-based company that creates sleek, unique headphones and earbuds made out of wood 2165aacd9454e33fcd6e0e7f4f678393that has been reclaimed from places such as furniture makers. The unused wood pieces are usually too small for a cabinet, but big enough for headphones and which would have otherwise been tossed into a landfill. According to LSTN Headphones, wood has better resonance then metal or plastic, using wood as the basis of their heaphones actually makes the music sound better.

What makes LSTN Headphones even more altruistic is that each time a pair of headphones or earbuds are purchased from the company, a child in a deaf school receives the gift of hearing.

How does this work? Partnering with global organization SoundSeekers, mobile clinics are taken into small a1f90faefade99f8ba5b7efca6f37da4villages throughout Southern and Eastern Africa and India, custom fitting hearing aids for children in deaf schools and treating them on the spot.

LSTN was started in the summer of 2012 by entrepreneur Bridget Hilton. Shortly thereafter the company was featured on the Today Show and on MTV – an amazing opportunity for a month old company!

As a hearing healthcare provider it’s difficult to tell someone to go out and buy a pair of headphones. But considering the benefits this company is providing to children all around the world … I think it sounds like a good idea to me!

Currently both the headphones and earbuds come in Ebony Wood, Cherry Wood and Beech Wood. The headphones sell for about $99.99 and the earbuds sell for about $49.99. For more information on the company or to buy a pair of headphones (and to help a needy child hear better), visit LSTN Headphones online today.

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Hi-Fun Bluetooth Gloves Let You Talk To The Hand

I remember being a child and watching the television show Get Smart and thinking how cool Agent 86’s (a.k.a. Maxwell Smart) gadgets were. The coolest thing Max could do was talk to Agent 99, The Chief or Hymie on his shoe-phone! How cool was that? Maybe that’s why I think Hi-Call’s new product, the H-Fun Bluetooth Gloves, is quite possibly one of the coolest products to come to market.Hi-Call-Glove-Bluetooth-Headset-650x306

Hi-Fun’s gloves are Bluetooth headsets – or, well, handsets – with the speaker built into the thumb and the microphone in the pinky, so you can talk by doing the traditional “call me” hand gesture. So instead of placing a headset on your ear, you simply raise your pinky finger (the microphone) and your thumb (the speaker) to your face and walla, you’re talking through your glove! The gloves come in black or gray and in men’s or women’s sizes. You can find them on-line at various retailers for about $70.

There are some inherent problems with the Hi-Fun gloves: You probably shouldn’t use the gloves during a bluetooth-gloves-2snowball fight. And let’s not forget that you might look a bit foolish wearing the gloves during the middle of summer.

Well writing about the Hi-Call Bluetooth gloves, Andrew Lizsweski of Gizmodo raised an important question: What makes you look more like a crazy person – walking down the street while talking into a Bluetooth earpiece, or walking down the street talking into your fingers? At first you might say the person talking to himself who is wildly waving their hands, babbling to no one in particular. If you saw that you’d probably look – or just assume – that they have a Bluetooth device stuck in their ear. But if you saw someone walking down the street talking into their finger and thumb, you’d probably take a double look and be a bit perplexed.

Personally I think the Bluetooth device in the ear has become so commonplace that you don’t even think twice when you see someone talking to themselves. Plus it’s safer for someone driving a car because they don’t have to take their hands off the wheel. But you have to admit, the Hi-Fun Bluetooth gloves are a pretty cool gadget that even Maxwell Smart would love to have. I think they’re so neat that I’m going to order a pair for myself!

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DJ rocks despite hearing loss

Robbie Wilde thumbs through his iPhone as the sounds of voices and clinking glasses bounce all around him. His eyes never leave the phone’s screen.

During New York Fashion Week, Wilde, 27, passes the time with friends and management at an exclusive party in Hell’s Kitchen before taking over the turntables.

Wilde lives in a world of rhythm and bass. He just can’t hear it.

Ear infections at age 7 left Wilde completely deaf in his right ear and took away 80% of his hearing in his left one.

It would be another four years before doctors would confirm what his mother, Maria Sapeta, dreaded: Her son was deaf.

“It was heartbreaking as a mother,” she recalled. “It was probably one of the hardest days of my life. But Robbie was the one who gave me a hug and said, ‘Don’t

Wilde relies on technology to see the music and differentiate between vocals, bass and kicks.

Wilde relies on technology to see the music and differentiate between vocals, bass and kicks.


Originally from Portugal, Sapeta and her husband, Emidio, then a cruise ship chef, had moved to the United States when Wilde was 5.

From childhood, he always had a “persistent personality,” Sapeta said, laughing. Unlike many other kids his age, he always finished what he started — from puzzles to cabins made from Lincoln Logs.

After losing his hearing, his grades slipped because he had difficulty understanding his teachers. Bullied in school, Wilde usually kept his deafness a secret.

When his parents suggested he attend a specialty school, he insisted on staying in public school. He worked with a speech therapist and began reading lips.

“I grew up in a way that I don’t want any sympathy. I don’t want to be treated differently,” he said. “I just tried to maneuver around, reading lips and trying to hear my own way.”

When her son announced he wanted to be a professional DJ instead of joining the family restaurant business, Sapeta was cautiously supportive.

“We could see his talent and his passion, but I kept worrying about that left ear,” she said. “Anything to stop his dreams, he didn’t want it.”

Hearing is the most important sense for a DJ, who manipulates music, scratches records and uses mixers. But Wilde was determined to succeed without his.

Always drawn to music, he discovered turntables in high school through a friend’s brother who was a DJ.

Wilde got his first shot at performing as a DJ at his father’s restaurant outside Newark, New Jersey, nearly a decade ago, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“I still consider it as a hobby. I really do love it,” Wilde said. “I don’t see it as a job, and that’s the best part.”

Wilde started out playing CDs before pushing himself to scratch records, something he knew he needed help with.

A tattoo on Wilde's right ear reads, "Out of Order."

A tattoo on Wilde’s right ear reads, “Out of Order.”

“It’s a hard business alone for the hearing community,” he said, “And I was like, ‘I’m hearing impaired and how’s that going to work?'”

So he paired up with two-time DMC world champion DJ and Harvard math grad Sam Zornow, aka DJ Shiftee, who was teaching at Dubspot, a DJ school and production studio in New York.

Mastering turntables is a skill that takes hours of practice to learn and can be a lifelong pursuit, Zornow said.

“It takes two years just to get bad,” he said. “And I mean ‘bad’ meaning bad.”

Still, Zornow was up to the challenge of working with Wilde. At first he didn’t know what to expect, but he said Wilde’s success has surprised him.

“On paper it should be impossible. You’re dealing with manipulating sound. Then combine that with a discipline that’s hard in general, it’s a really impressive task he’s taken on,” Zornow said. “From the beginning he believed in himself and continues to believe in himself.”

Computer giant Hewlett-Packard noticed Wilde’s skills and put him in a commercial this fall for its new touch-enabled PC, thrusting him onto the world stage. (watch it here on YouTube)

“It’s a true story of inspiration,” said HP marketing executive Danielle Jones. “His is a profound story of someone being able to do the things that matter to them and the things that they love through technology.”

Unable to hear lyrics or complete compositions, Wilde relies on technology to see the music by using his laptop and DJ software that helps him differentiate between vocals, bass and kicks.

I grew up in a way that I don’t want any sympathy.
Robbie Wilde

He also feels the vibration whether physically from a club’s speakers or through a SubPac, which resembles a seat cushion and allows him to feel the music by directly transferring low frequencies to the body.

Clubgoers and promoters dubbed him “That Deaf DJ” after he first came onto the scene in New Jersey — a moniker even he uses. But Wilde said he wants to be more than just “a deaf kid trying to DJ.”

“I want you to see me as a great DJ who happens to be deaf,” he said.

Besides, he said, some things are better left unheard.

“There’s a lot of sounds out in the world you don’t want to hear. I like it muffled,” he said. “I like who I am; I’m proud of who I am.”

Wilde has gone from working small clubs to rocking this year’s Consumer Electronics Show and Sundance Film Festival.

When he’s not behind the turntables, Wilde is in the studio producing music.

Often questioned about the severity of his deafness, Wilde used to carry around a doctor’s note and would show the back of his driver’s license indicating his hearing impairment.

When people question his abilities, he said he has only one answer: “I didn’t hear you.”


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