Stories & Features

Enjoy your music safely, at home and on the move

Image of Leen AlOmari wearing headphones
Leen AlOmari of BC Hydro's community team enjoys listening to some music on headphones during a break in her work day. She offers tips, below, on how to get the most out of music while also paying attention to your health, safety and your electricity use.

Don't be that person biking or driving, headphones on

Leen AlOmari

Ever heard the phrase "One person's noise is another person's music?" Music is personal.

We all have diverse tastes, and while there are many genres out there, some of us may only like one or two types. Personally, while working at the office, I like to listen to Top 40 through my headphones. But when I'm at home, my taste in music changes, and I enjoy unwinding to folk or country music through my home speakers.

We also differ in the way we prefer to listen to music. Last month's Team Power Smart poll showed that 62% listen to speakers in the home, while 19% listed live performance as their favourite (B.C.'s festivals this month include Shambhala, Atmosphere, and Salmon Arm Roots & Blues), and another 16% preferred headphones. Whatever your top choice, watch that volume – studies show that hearing loss can start with sustained exposure to noise as relatively modest as 85 decibels.

In this story, we offer tips on how to get the most out of music, how to save a few bucks on the energy costs of music, and how to stay safe when listening via headphones or earbuds in public. Enjoy the tips below, and don't forget to enter this month's Team Power Smart contest, featuring a grand prize of a fabulous set of headphones. Not a Team Power Smart member? Join today.

Does listening to music help or hinder study or work?

Some people are convinced they're more productive when listening to music. The truth is that it comes down to you, and to some extent, the type of work you're doing and the music you're listening to.

Studies have shown that music can either improve your attention span and increase your memory retention, or can be distracting and may affect your ability to memorize things in a particular order. The volume, tempo, beat and rhythm can all impact your mood and ability to focus in different ways. One rule of thumb is that music with vocals tends to make it hard (for most people) to concentrate on task involving reading or writing.

Walking or driving, headphones can be a safety risk

You can't go a day without either listening to music through headphones or earbuds, or seeing someone else doing it. It's a common practice on the street, on the bus and, increasingly, while riding a bike.

Pedestrians who wear headphones while walking are at greater risk of serious injury or death than people who don't tune out. Research has shown that headphones distract users from the task at hand and isolate users from their environment. And it's just not a good idea to be plugged in while riding a bike – the audio cues from traffic, siren or a pedestrian that you'd otherwise miss while wearing headphones could save your life.

And then there's driving. Distracted drivers are the main cause of car accidents in B.C., and driving while listening to music through your headphones is illegal and subject to a fine. You can only use your mobile phone while driving for the purpose of hands-free communication, headphones must only be worn in one ear, and you can only put it in your ear before you start driving.

The correlation between headphones and hearing loss

Studies suggest that hearing loss can occur after listening to loud music for just an hour and 15 minutes. Basically prolonged exposure to anything over 85 decibels – about as loud as a blender or a garburator – can be risky.

The music you're listening to is too loud if you're not able to hear external sounds when your headphones are on. If you're unable to hear any external sounds, then your music is too loud. One way to hear music clearly without having to crank it up is to use noise cancelling headphones rather than earbuds. Just don't do it when you need to hear around you to stay safe, such as when you're walking on city streets.

Opt for ENERGY STAR® electronics, and unplug stuff regularly

ENERGY STAR certified audio and video products can use up to nearly 70% less energy, on average, than standard models. ENERGY STAR certified Blu-Ray players are, on average, 45% more efficient than standard models. Saving energy saves money.

Also, use these tips to ensure you're not wasting electricity on electronics that aren't being used:

  • If you don't use your device very often, unplug your Blu-ray player, speaker docks and other electronic items to prevent unnecessary power loss.
  • Give your energy bill a vacation. If you're going on vacation, take a few minutes before you leave to unplug your electronic items to prevent unnecessary power loss.
  • Use an advanced power strip or "smart" power bar. Plug the TV into the master receptacle and plug other devices such as DVD players and video game systems into the secondary receptacles. Turning off the TV cuts power to the other devices too, automatically saving energy and reducing your electricity costs.

So dance away your worries wearing your headphones, just not in a crosswalk. Listen to music while preforming tasks that don't require a lot of concentration, and make sure you're using ENERGY STAR certified audio/video products to save energy.

Leen AlOmari is a member of BC Hydro's community team.