How to make headphones louder by increasing volume safely

Someone increasing volume on their Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

Some music is meant to be played loud, but there's a fine line between loud and too loud. If you're in a noisy location, listening to low-quality audio, or just trying to drown out background noise, it might be tempting to increase the volume level of your headphones.

However, in recent years there's been more research about the effects of loud audio on hearing and lasting damage to your ears. Instead of cranking up the volume, it's important to know how to safely make your headphones louder and increase volume.

How loud are we talking, exactly? Research has found that repeated exposure to noise over 85 decibels can lead to hearing loss. While you might think this is only a problem at places like construction sites or rock concerts, it can also happen in the comfort of your own home.

Many headphones have maximum volume levels over 100 decibels, so listening to music or other audio too loudly can damage your hearing. In fact, the number of people reporting hearing difficulties due to overuse of headphones is only increasing. Here's how to pump up the jams while keeping the volume settings low.

How to make headphones louder — without harming your ears

According to a study in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, listening to headphones for more than one hour daily on a volume level over 50% can pose a risk to your hearing after just five years. So if you frequently pop in wireless headphones during the work day, on your commute, or while you exercise, you should keep the volume under 50% to protect your ears.

Let's face it: There will probably be times when you simply can't hear the audio for one reason or another. Here's how to enjoy your audio and save your ears.

Use noise cancelling headphones to reduce background noise

Noise cancelling headphones can help you block out background noise and maintain optimal volume levels when you're listening to music. Bose offers a variety of wireless headphones and earbuds with the world's best active noise cancellation, making it easy to tune out the world around you and focus solely on your audio — without cranking up the volume.

What is active noise cancellation? Also called ANC, this technology uses tiny microphones within the headphones to listen to the ambient noise around you; it then produces an opposite sound wave to effectively eliminate background noise. It's much more effective at blocking disruptive noises than passive noise cancellation, which simply muffles external sounds by forming a seal around your ear.

The best part about Bose noise cancellation technology is that it can be adjusted to suit your needs. When you want to solely focus on your music, you can activate Quiet Mode to reduce background noise, which safely increases the volume of your audio. And if you want enough transparency to hear your surroundings, Aware Mode only dampens the loudest sounds, allowing you to hold a conversation or walk through a busy city safely.

Woman on hike wearing backpack and listening to Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

Find the right fit for ear cushions and eartips

Do your earbuds always feel like they're on the verge of falling out? If so, they probably don't fit properly — a common issue with one-size-fits-all earbuds. Poorly fitting wireless earbuds can be uncomfortable to wear, as you'll need to adjust them regularly. If they’re not forming a proper seal in your ear, they might deliver subpar audio.

If you want to enjoy your favorite tunes to their fullest potential (and keep the audio volume at a safe level), you need headphones that fit properly. Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds make this easy. They come with the "Bose Fit Kit," which includes  three pairs of soft silicone eartips and three sizes of stability bands. You can mix and match the components to ensure the earbuds fit just right. The tips should gently rest at the opening of your ear canal, and the stability band should sit comfortably against your ear ridge. You can also use the Fit Test within the Bose Music app to help you select the right size for your individual ears.

Once you've found your perfect fit, you'll notice that audio is clearer, and noise cancellation is more effective, as the tight seal helps you block out the world around you and channel sound waves right into your ear. That said, you should still follow best practices when it comes to volume control.

Clean your headphones and earbuds regularly

When was the last time you cleaned your headphones? For a lot of people, the answer might be never, but believe it or not, many experts recommend cleaning wireless earbuds after every use. At the very least, you should be cleaning your headphones and disinfecting them once a week.  This not only keeps them sanitary, but it will also ensure they're delivering high-quality sound and dirt, debris, and earwax aren't affecting the sound.

To clean your Bose earbuds, start by removing and washing the eartips and wiping down the mesh screens with a soft, dry cloth. If you find that you need to constantly make the music louder and your earbuds haven't been cleaned in a while, there may be earwax on the mesh that's impacting the sound quality. When this happens, you'll need a small amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide and cotton swabs or a soft-bristled toothbrush to scrub away the sticky debris. Once the wax is gone, fully dry the earbuds before reattaching the tips.

Woman sitting outside wearing Cypress Green QuietComfort Headphones

Adjust the equaliser settings

Another way to tailor your audio without adjusting the volume is with the help of
, which allow you to boost or lower certain audio frequencies. If you're using the Bose Music app, you can find these settings by tapping the "EQ" shortcut button, and in this panel, you'll be able to adjust the bass and treble levels.

When you boost the bass, the low notes become more powerful, while treble boosting gives music a lighter, more airy sound. The app has automatic settings for Bass Boost, Bass Reducer, Treble Boost, and Treble Reducer, but you can also adjust each setting individually to suit your needs.

Many other music apps offer equaliser settings as well. For instance, the Spotify app allows you to adjust the bass and treble levels in music and podcasts. You can experiment with these settings to enhance your audio, making it easier to hear in busy environments.

If you want to take things a step further, your phone's settings app may offer additional ways to protect your hearing. For iPhone users, the headphone audio level feature automatically reduces loud noises over a selected volume level. Samsung phones have similar volume-limiting settings that stop you from turning the volume levels up — it can even be protected by a PIN in case you want to set it up on your children's devices.

Keep your ears safe and the music flowing

Entertainment and safety don't have to be at odds with one another. It's important to keep the volume down if you use headphones and wireless earbuds on a regular basis, and with high-quality earbuds and the right app settings, you'll be able to enjoy every moment of your favourite music, podcast, or other audio without damaging your ears.

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