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Beware your headphones at the gym

Tim Collins is a certified personal trainer based in Omaha. He blogs Thursdays for Read more from Tim here.

Just like Thor relies on his hammer for battle, most gym goers rely on their MP3 player and headphones to push through workouts. If you're like me, maxing out the volume when your favorite song pops up on the play list gets the adrenaline flowing. But as exhilarating as this can be, it's not safe.

When this was my norm, my inner ears would ring after every gym session. At first I ignored it, but after going on for a while, the problem started to worsen.

Some people don't even notice the change initially, but fortunately I was able to notice it early enough and avoid any long-term issues. Ringing, or even difficulty understanding speech, are common warning signs.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), inside your ears are tiny hairs that stand tall, responding to sound vibrations and giving you the ability to hear. When exposed to high levels of sound over long periods of time, they'll flatten, kind of like grass that has been stampeded by a herd of cattle. This causes them to lose the capability to process sound.

Sound pressure is measured by decibels (dB) and is dangerous for the ear at levels of about 60 dB. Another way to protect your ears is by avoiding headphones that insert directly into your ear. Instead, try the kind that cover your ear, like Beats by Dr. Dre, which are popular among gym goers. I have tried these before and was impressed at the sound quality.

Be safe, and don't over do it on the volume like I was doing. Keeping your MP3 player updated with fresh music will give you enough of an extra push to train hard and stay motivated.

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