The latest generation to come of age — millennials — has been called the “headphone generation.” Headphones, earphones, earbuds — whichever style you prefer — are ubiquitous nowadays. Part of the reason is because there’s so much to listen to — almost all music has been digitized, podcasts are the latest and greatest form of media, audiobooks are a constant source of engagement for book lovers, and many people get their news intake via audio.

But, does all this listening come at a price? Constant sound pumping into our ears, particularly at a high volume, can cause hearing loss over time. Hearing damage is a real danger, particularly for young people. Part of the solution is using good, properly fitting earbuds. The reason why is because low-quality earphones or earbuds or earphones and earbuds that don’t fit do not come with good noise-cancelling capabilities, causing listeners to have the tendency to turn the volume up unnecessarily.

Additional properties of good earbuds include:

Comfort

Like the rest of the human body, every person’s ears have a unique shape. Earbuds that feel comfortable for one person may not feel comfortable for another person. And, when earbuds are uncomfortable, you are more likely to turn the volume up to compensate for the lack of sound quality. So take the time to do your research when shopping for earbuds. Go to an electronics store and try out a few pairs before buying one. Look for earbuds that are made of superior synthetic material so they don’t cause you to sweat and don’t cause irritation in the ear.

Durability

The best durable earbuds aren’t a dime a dozen. But because earbuds are valuable and often deemed essential, it is easy to be tempted to buy ones that are cheap. However, cheap earbuds are not as durable as quality types. They will be prone to stop working, they will be susceptible to water and sweat damage, the cords will often be weak and easily damageable, and the hearing quality will degrade over time. Paying a higher price for durable earbuds is a good investment if you want your essential pair to stick around for a while.

Cleanliness

Most people never think of cleaning their earbuds. But a major cause of loss in hearing quality is dirt and grime being caked on the end of the earbuds thrust most deeply into your ear. Ear wax and in-ear dirt that transfers to the earbuds blocks sound. And that’s not to mention the germs that your earbuds pick up from lying around on different surfaces; those germs are then transferred to your ears. The easiest way to keep your earbuds clean is to use detachable foam covers. You can throw away the cover after a few months’ (or weeks’) use and get new ones. Foam covers can be ordered in bulk on Amazon. If your earbuds don’t come with foam covers, you can always clean them with a damp cloth. Just be sure not to get any water inside the actual buds.

Earbuds are here to stay. Make sure yours are comfortable, durable, and clean.