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

Aiden loves music. He listens to Spotify while working, switches to Pandora when jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: gaming, gym time, cooking, and everything else. His entire life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the very thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, could be contributing to permanent damage to his hearing.

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

How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?

Your ability to hear can be compromised over time by exposure to loud noise. We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as a problem associated with aging, but the latest research is revealing that hearing loss isn’t an inherent part of getting older but is instead, the result of accumulated noise damage.

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

Is there a safe way to listen to music?

Unrestricted max volume is clearly the “dangerous” way to listen to music. But there is a safer way to listen to your tunes, and it typically involves turning the volume down. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:

  • For adults: No more than 40 hours of weekly listening on a device and keep the volume lower than 80dB.
  • For teens and young children: You can still listen for 40 hours, but the volume should still be below 75dB.

About five hours and forty minutes a day will be about forty hours a week. Though that may seem like a while, it can feel like it passes quite quickly. Even still, most individuals have a fairly sound idea of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re taught to do effectively from a really young age.

Keeping track of volume is a little less intuitive. Volume isn’t measured in decibels on the majority of smart devices such as TVs, computers, and smartphones. It’s calculated on some arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You may not have any idea how close to max volume you are or even what max volume on your device is.

How can you monitor the volume of your tunes?

There are a few non-intrusive, simple ways to determine just how loud the volume on your music really is, because it’s not all that easy for us to conceptualize exactly what 80dB sounds like. It’s even more difficult to determine the difference between 80 and 75dB.

That’s why it’s highly suggested you use one of numerous free noise monitoring apps. These apps, generally available for both iPhone and Android devices, will provide you with8 real-time readouts on the noises around you. That way you can track the dB level of your music in real-time and make alterations. Or, when listening to music, you can also adjust your settings in your smartphone which will efficiently let you know that your volume is too loud.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is generally about 80 decibels. That’s not too loud. Your ears will start to take damage at volumes higher than this threshold so it’s a significant observation.

So pay close attention and try to stay clear of noise above this volume. If you do listen to some music beyond 80dB, remember to minimize your exposure. Maybe listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the whole album.

Listening to music at a higher volume can and will cause you to develop hearing problems over the long run. You can develop hearing loss and tinnitus. The more you can be conscious of when your ears are entering the danger zone, the more informed your decision-making can be. And ideally, those decisions lean towards safer listening.

Contact us if you still have questions about keeping your ears safe.

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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.

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