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Shopping for Headphones: Beats by Dr. Dre

Ear Health
Beats by Dr. Dre headphones start at $199.
Beats by Dr. Dre headphones start at $199.

Beats by Dr. Dre is by far the hottest Holiday gift for teens and young adults.  These colorful headphones start at $199 and cost up to $399.  Even Oprah added them to her list of “Favorite Things” for 2013.

So what should you consider when gifting headphones this year?  What is so special about Beats by Dr. Dre?  How do they compare to other headphones?  Why are they so expensive?

What to Consider

Not only is it important to purchase headphones based on their quality, it is also important to consider the benefits for hearing conservation .  Especially for children and teens, headphones can cause hearing loss if music is played too loud for long periods of time.  There are several solutions:

1. Turn the Music Down

It is important to be aware of the level of sound entering your ears. Because we are used to noise all around us, we tend to prefer the music to be loud when we really could enjoy it at a lower volume.  In addition, the settings of many mp3 players, allow you to set the maximum volume.  Setting the maximum volume midway on the spectrum will prevent you from turning the music up too loud.

2. Turn Down Your Surroundings

If you turn up the volume in your headphones more than half-way on the volume spectrum and you still can not hear the music, chances are you need to retreat to a quieter place to listen.  Listening to music on headphones outside while surrounded by noisy traffic, wind, loud machinery, and noisy crowds will lead to you turn up the volume. When you increase the volume in your headphones to overcome the background noise around you, you increase the level of sound entering your ears.  This competition of noises steadily increases the level of sound entering your ears.  This increased level of sound will cause damage to your ears and leading to hearing loss.  If you can’t hear the music, you may want to find a quieter place to listen.

3. The Difference Between Earbuds and Headphones

All earbuds fit in the ear but deliver sound differently. Some earbuds fit snugly in the ear canal while others rest on the outside of the ear canal.
All earbuds fit in the ear but deliver sound differently. Some earbuds fit snugly in the ear canal while others rest on the outside of the ear canal.

Earbuds are placed in the ear, some of which snugly fit in the ear canal.  The soft outer foam or rubber seals the ear from outside noise but projects the sound directly into the ear.  The deeper the ear bud is place in the ear canal, the greater chance of pushing debris and ear wax further in the ear disrupting the ear’s natural flushing system.  In addition, it is critical to be aware of the level of sound entering the ear because of the direct projection of sound.

Dr. Swamy recommends traditional headphones over earbuds for safety and hearing conservation.  If you already have a pair of ear buds, Dr. Swamy can create a custom fitting for your current earbuds by creating a mold of your ear and creating a place for the earbuds to snap into place.  This custom mold will secure the earbud on the outside of your ear rather than allowing it to enter your ear canal.  In addition, the custom ear bud will seal out background noise and allow you to ear the sound at a lower volume.

The diagram of the ear shows the direct impact that an earbud will have on the auditory system causing potential danger if high levels of sound are directly projected into the ear canal.

What is so special about Beats by Dr. Dre?

Beats by Dr. Dre are available in traditional headsets or earbuds.  The benefit of the headsets is not limited to the stereo quality sound, but includes the noise cancelling features.  The Executive, Pro, and Studio headphones are large enough to cover your entire ear and includes the noise cancellation feature.  When they headsets are worn without music playing, they act similar to ear muffs by dramatically decreasing outside noise.

Upon contacting Beats by Dr. Dre directly, they were unclear how the technology worked.  According the the customer service representative we talked to at Beats, the difference between the “Active Noise Cancellation” and the “Adaptive Noise Cancellation”  is a switch that that activates the noise cancellation feature rather than the feature automatically remaining active.

While the specific technology for Beats by Dr. Dre is unclear, there are benefits of having the noise cancelling feature on headphones.  As we indicated earlier in this article, the greatest reason people turn up the volume in their headphones to harmful levels is because the background noise is too high.  By decreasing the background noise with the noise cancelling feature, the headset volume can remain at safe volumes while still being able to enjoy the music.

While we have not personally experienced the headphones in this article, online research indicates that quality headphones with a noise cancelling feature range in price from $50-$300.  The best headphones for hearing conservation are styles that cover the ear and decrease the outside noise.  Other considerations include style, weight, and comfort and are based on personal preference.



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