Woman with long dark hair relaxing in a chair in the park listening to headphones

Aiden enjoys music. He listens to Spotify while at work, switches to Pandora when jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: cardio, cooking, gaming, you name it. His headphones are just about always on, his life a fully soundtracked event. But permanent hearing damage may be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he enjoys.

There are ways to enjoy music that are healthy for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. Unfortunately, most of us opt for the more hazardous listening choice.

How does listening to music cause hearing loss?

Your ability to hear can be compromised over time by exposure to loud noise. We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as a problem associated with aging, but more and more research suggests that it’s really the accumulation of noise-related damage that is the problem here and not anything inherent in the aging process.

It also turns out that younger ears are particularly vulnerable to noise-induced damage (they’re still growing, after all). And yet, younger adults are more likely to be dismissive of the long-term dangers of high volume. So because of widespread high volume headphone use, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in young people.

Is there a safe way to enjoy music?

Unregulated max volume is obviously the “hazardous” way to listen to music. But merely turning down the volume is a less dangerous way to listen. The general guidelines for safe volumes are:

  • For adults: Keep the volume at less than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours a week..
  • For teens and young children: 40 hours is still okay but lower the volume to 75dB.

About five hours and forty minutes a day will give you about forty hours every week. Though that may seem like a long time, it can seem to pass rather quickly. But we’re trained to monitor time our whole lives so the majority of us are rather good at it.

The harder part is monitoring your volume. On most smart devices, computers, and televisions, volume isn’t measured in decibels. It’s measured on some arbitrary scale. It may be 1-100. But maybe it’s 1-16. You might have no idea what the max volume on your device is, or how close to the max you are.

How can you keep tabs on the volume of your tunes?

It’s not very easy to tell how loud 80 decibels is, but fortunately there are some non-intrusive ways to tell how loud the volume is. Distinguishing 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more puzzling.

So using one of the numerous noise free monitoring apps is greatly advisable. Real-time readouts of the noise around you will be obtainable from both iPhone and Android apps. In this way, you can make real-time adjustments while monitoring your real dB level. Your smartphone will, with the proper settings, let you know when the volume gets too loud.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Generally, 80 dB is about as noisy as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. That’s not too loud. It’s an important observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can take without damage.

So pay close attention and try to avoid noise above this volume. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Maybe limit loud listening to a song instead of an album.

Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to develop hearing problems over the long term. You can develop hearing loss and tinnitus. Your decision making will be more informed the more mindful you are of when you’re entering the danger zone. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.

Give us a call if you still have questions about the safety of your ears.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Medical information dates as new research comes out all the time - if you have a concern about your hearing, please call us.

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