Music and Headphones: What’s a Healthy Volume?

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

Music is an essential part of Aiden’s life. While he’s out jogging, he’s listening to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: cardio, cooking, video games, you name it. His headphones are pretty much always on, his life a completely soundtracked event. But the very thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, might be contributing to permanent damage to his hearing.

There are ways to listen to music that are healthy for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. But the more hazardous listening choice is often the one most of us use.

How can listening to music result in hearing loss?

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

Younger ears that are still growing are, as it turns out, more vulnerable to noise-induced damage. And yet, younger adults are more inclined to be dismissive of the long-term risks of high volume. So there’s an epidemic of younger individuals with hearing loss thanks, in part, to loud headphone use.

Is there a safe way to enjoy music?

Unregulated max volume is clearly the “dangerous” way to enjoy music. But simply turning the volume down is a safer way to listen. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:

  • For adults: No more than 40 hours of weekly listening on a device and keep the volume below 80dB.
  • For teens and young children: 40 hours is still fine but reduce the volume to 75dB.

About five hours and forty minutes per day will give you about forty hours a week. That seems like a lot, but it can go by fairly quickly. But we’re trained to monitor time our entire lives so most of us are pretty good at it.

The harder part is keeping track of your volume. On most smart devices, computers, and televisions, volume isn’t calculated in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. It may be 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You might not have any clue what the max volume on your device is, or how close to the max you are.

How can you track 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 contemplate what 80dB sounds like. Distinguishing 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more perplexing.

So utilizing one of the numerous noise free monitoring apps is greatly recommended. Real-time volumes of the noise around you will be available from both iPhone and Android apps. That way you can track the dB level of your music in real-time and make alterations. Your smartphone will, with the proper settings, inform you when the volume gets too loud.

The volume of a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is typically around 80 decibels. That’s not too loud. Your ears will begin to take damage at volumes higher than this threshold so it’s an important observation.

So you’ll want to be extra aware of those times when you’re going beyond that volume threshold. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the entire album.

Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to develop hearing problems over the long run. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the result. 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.

Still have questions about keeping your ears safe? Give us a call to explore more options.

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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