If you own a portable music player or smartphone, chances are you also have a pair of earbuds. Compared to over-the-ear headphones, earbuds, which are also known as in-ear earphones, can be more convenient since they're more portable. However, the wrong kind of earbuds can be uncomfortable or even damaging. There are several things to look out for in earbuds to make sure you're getting a good pair.
Note the Impedance
Impedance is what helps eliminate the noise that earbuds emit. Since earbuds run on electricity, they produce a vibration, which thereby emits a hissing type sound. In order to drown out this hissing sound and ensure that your audio is as clear as possible, make sure your earbuds have high impedance. Impedance is measured in ohms. While earbuds that have high impedance will likely cost more, they'll offer much better listening quality than those with low impedance.
Watch the Decibels
We all like to listen to music loudly from time to time, but buying a pair of earbuds that can get too loud could be detrimental to your hearing. That's where sensitivity comes into play regarding the decibel level, or dB, your earbuds operate at. Earbuds come with all different types of decibel limitations, but as a rule of thumb, make sure that yours don't exceed 85 dB; audio that exceeds 85 dB can cause hearing loss.
Know the Design
Good earbud design plays a huge role in minimizing noise-induced hearing loss as well as user comfort. There are two main types of earbuds -- those that fit onto your ear and those that fit right in your ear bud. Generally, the ones that fit onto your ear are more comfortable, but the problem with these is that the audio is typically further away from your eardrum, meaning you may have to crank the volume to get the sound you want, which can be harmful. No matter what type of earbuds you prefer, make sure they fit comfortably and that the audio is close to your ear.
Check the Isolation
Isolation is another important aspect to keep in mind when selecting a pair of earbuds. Specifically, isolation refers to the earbuds' ability to drown out any outside noise. Bad earbuds have little or no sound isolation, which means you'll likely have to turn up the volume on your audio -- perhaps to unsafe listening levels -- to hear adequately. Conversely, good earbuds have good isolation that blocks out surrounding noise, so you're better able to listen at safe levels.
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