Did you know that one of the most common ways your hearing is damaged is through the very thing your ears were designed to do? Long-term exposure to noise permanently damages the hair cells of the inner ear that are vital to our hearing abilities. Some noise-related hearing loss is unavoidable as we age (nearly 50 percent of the population over the age of 75 have age-related hearing loss). However, audiologists are noting that an increasing number of young adults and teens are losing their hearing from excessive exposure to noise – mostly through leisure activities.

By proactively using these six tips for safer listening, you can reduce your chances of developing hearing loss at an early age.

1. Wear earplugs or earmuffs

Using hearing protection lowers the impact of sounds by 15-35 decibels. Be smart and wear earplugs when you’re taking in a rock concert, spending time at the club or attending an indoor sporting event. We promise you’ll still hear well enough to have a good time.

2. Choose headphones over earbuds

Headphones do a better job of muffling outside noise, allowing you to listen to music or podcasts at a lower volume. So, whenever you have the choice, choose headphones.

3. Limit the volume on personal listening devices

The maximum volume on most personal listening devices is around 105 decibels – more than 20 decibels higher than the safety threshold. Never listen to music at maximum volume, and don’t try to completely drown out background noise around you. If you can’t hear anything but your music, it’s probably too loud. Another good test is whether those around you can hear your music, too.

4. Use the 60/60 rule

Regardless of whether you’re using earbuds or headphones, a good practice is to limit your device’s volume to 60 percent of its maximum capacity and use it for no more than 60 minutes at a time.

5. Turn down the radio, the stereo and television

If you’re listening to music on the radio in your car or in a room of your house, keep in mind that confined spaces amplify sound and increase the damage to your hearing. If you need to raise your voice to carry on a conversation with someone, it’s a sign you should turn down the volume a little. Even a few notches can save your hearing!

6. Go on a noise detox

Research shows that for every two hours of exposure to noises above 100 decibels, your ears need 16 hours to recover. If you’re regularly exposed to loud noise, whether at work or through your hobbies, make sure to give your ears some time to rest and recover.

Hearing damage over time is a normal part of the aging process, but you have control over how fast and how severely noise-induced hearing loss affects you. Use these six tips for safe listening and visit an audiologist regularly to keep your hearing healthy for years to come.