[ Thumbnail ] Bringing Care and Joy Together in Harmony #1

Bringing Care and Joy Together in Harmony

#1 Listening to Music with Attention to Hearing Health

April 12, 2023

Enjoying music and caring for your hearing health can be a tricky dilemma. Healthy ears are essential to continue listening long-term, but keeping the volume low to reduce the burden on your ears can make the music less satisfying. Yamaha responds to this conflict with its Listening Care feature, protecting your ears while also delivering high-quality sound.

Human ears work in a way that makes it difficult to hear low- and high-frequency sounds when the volume is turned low. Taking this human trait into consideration, the Listening Care feature is designed to automatically adjust the upper and lower sound frequencies to give a satisfying sound experience even at lower volumes. This newly developed feature, which is equipped in almost all of Yamaha’s latest earbuds and headphones, enables listeners to enjoy high-quality sound without increasing the volume to potentially dangerous levels.

Rich Quality, Yet Ear-Friendly

[ Thumbnail ] Ikuo Tanaka from the Marketing and Sales Group, Home Audio Division
Ikuo Tanaka from the Marketing and Sales Group, Home Audio Division

It was Yamaha’s 2018 Global Customer Survey that sparked the development of Listening Care. Ikuo Tanaka, who is in charge of the marketing and sales for home audio equipment, says, “It’s not unusual for teenagers and millennials to listen to music for several hours a day. Our survey found that many of these young people are anxious about the adverse effects, and that they want to protect their ears.”

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report that backed up these findings. According to the report, 1.1 billion, or roughly half of the world’s youths (aged 12-35), face a high risk of hearing loss. The WHO warns that without preventative measures, this number will continue to increase.

Yamaha realized that as a manufacturer of audio equipment, it had an important role to play in helping users enjoy music safely. This is how the quest to create next-generation earbuds started out. The foundation of the development project was Yamaha’s unique technology designed to automatically adjust the upper and lower frequencies depending on the volume levels. Used in Yamaha’s AV receivers, this feature allows users to enjoy music and videos in the same immersive quality, even when they lower the volume at night.

Applying this feature to earbuds, however, was no easy feat because home theater speakers and earbuds are used in completely different environments. Tanaka explains, “The development team finally reached the ideal sound after making countless adjustments to the higher and lower frequencies, then optimized the tonal balance with the middle frequencies.” The result was Listening Care, a feature that delivers natural sound to the ears even at low volumes. Almost all Yamaha earbuds and headphones sold from 2019 onward are equipped with this feature.

Peace of Mind for All Music Listeners

In addition to equipping earbuds and headphones with the Listening Care feature, Yamaha works on raising public awareness about hearing health. In 2022, Tanaka and his team launched “Thinking About Hearing Health,” a special webpage about safe listening. They timed the launch on March 3rd to coincide with WHO’s World Hearing Day.

The messaging on the webpage is far from typical product marketing. According to Tanaka, “When it comes to earbuds and headphones, there’s just no way for us to know how loudly the music is playing in the users’ ears. It is important for each individual to know the risks of hearing loss and make conscious choices themselves. We feel that as manufacturers of earbuds and headphones, it is our responsibility to provide users with the correct knowledge in ways that are easy to understand.”

To avoid readers from getting stuck in anxiety, Tanaka and his team made sure to include tips on how they can reduce the risk of hearing loss. For example, when you’re trying to minimize the stress on the ears, it’s important to consider both the volume level and total listening time. “Once you understand that the problem is the combination of these two factors, it’s much easier to feel in control of your own hearing health,” says Tanaka. “It allows people to make decisions to reduce the burden in their own way.”

According to global standards established by the WHO and ITU (International Telecommunications Union), a sound level of 80dB is safe for a grown adult, but only as long the total length of exposure stays within 40 hours a week. “Many of us are unknowingly putting our ears at risk. If you work at a factory, you could be constantly exposed to noises at 80dB. There are also people who listen at 90dB on their earbuds.”

Tanaka started playing the violin as a child and went on to study violin production at university. Once he joined Yamaha, he shifted his focus to audio equipment and has worked on sales and marketing ever since. He has an extensive collection of audio equipment at home, illustrating his devotion to making audio experiences the best they can be.

Tanaka expresses his concern about the lack of social awareness around the risks of hearing loss. “Hearing health is crucial for well-being, but most people are oblivious to the dangers of listening to loud sounds for extended periods of time. I think that Yamaha not only needs to provide great listening experiences but also make it possible for users to enjoy those experiences long term.” Tanaka, who is an experienced marketer, values the power of communicating messages to the public. He feels that educating people about hearing health is crucial, especially now that the risk of hearing loss among young people is higher than ever.

The Long-Term Vision for Delivering TRUE SOUND

Listening Care is only one of many features that allow Yamaha earbuds and headphones to deliver excellent sound.

The newest and most improved earbuds model, TW-E7B, is equipped with “Listening Optimizer,” an adaptive feature that corrects sound balance, but in a different way than Listening Care. The relationship between the earbuds and ears differs from person to person, and constantly changes depending on the playback environment. Listening Optimizer provides a truly personalized listening experience by taking real-time measurements of the sound being played inside the user’s ears and then correcting the sound played in each earbud in real-time.

This is only one of many ways Yamaha provides customers with ideal sound, but how does it define “ideal” in the first place?

When it comes to audio equipment, everything from the parts to the design and functions contribute to the creation of the sound experience. In Yamaha’s case, the guiding compass for all of these elements is the concept of “TRUE SOUND.” In Tanaka’s words, “TRUE SOUND is what Yamaha defines as ‘good sound’. It means delivering sound in a way that stays true to what the artist intended to express.” The meticulous care that Yamaha pours into its audio products is rooted in its deep relationship with music professionals. Tanaka elaborates, “As an instruments manufacturer, Yamaha is able to create deep connections with artists; we have the privilege of bringing great music to life, and we have a deep understanding of what ideal sound is. I think that it is important for us in the audio equipment division to have an equal level of respect toward artists and their work. It’s what should drive us in everything we do.”

Listening Care-equipped earbuds and headphones deliver TRUE SOUND to listeners around the globe, all the while caring for their hearing health. They are not the only Yamaha products that achieve the coexistence of thoughtfulness and joy, however. In the next article of this series, we learn about SILENT Brass™, a product that brings to life the brass player’s dream to enjoy playing anytime, anywhere.

(Interview date: December 2022)

Next Page #2 An Enjoyable Playing Experience Anytime, Anywhere


Tanaka is a member of the Marketing and Sales Group, Home Audio Division. He started playing the violin in elementary school and studied violin crafting in university while also playing in the orchestra. He joined Yamaha in 1998 and has many years of experience working in sales and marketing for professional audio equipment, including several years as an expat in Germany. He is now in charge of home audio products for consumers. His recent hobby is practicing the piano with his child, who just started taking piano lessons.

*Bio as of the time of the interview

Three-Part Series: Bringing Care and Joy Together in Harmony

#1 Listening to Music with Attention to Hearing Health

#2 An Enjoyable Playing Experience Anytime, Anywhere

#3 Making Enjoyment Last for A Lifetime

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