Music and Headphones: What’s a Safe Volume?

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

Music is a major part of Aiden’s life. While he’s out running, he listens to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: gaming, gym time, cooking, and everything else. His headphones are almost always on, his life a fully soundtracked affair. But the very thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, may be causing irreversible damage to his hearing.

As far as your ears are concerned, there are safe ways to listen to music and hazardous ways to listen to music. But the more dangerous listening option is often the one most of us use.

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 related to aging, but the latest research is showing that hearing loss isn’t an inherent part of aging but is instead, the result of accumulated noise damage.

It also turns out that younger ears are especially susceptible to noise-related damage (they’re still growing, after all). And yet, the long-term harm from high volume is more likely to be disregarded by young adults. So there’s an epidemic of younger people with hearing loss thanks, in part, to loud headphone use.

Can you listen to music safely?

It’s obviously hazardous to enjoy music on max volume. But there is a safer way to enjoy your tunes, and it usually involves turning down the volume. Here are a couple of general guidelines:

  • 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 be about forty hours every week. Though that could seem like a while, it can seem to pass quite quickly. But we’re trained to monitor time our whole lives so the majority of us are rather good at it.

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

How can you track the volume of your music?

There are a few non-intrusive, easy ways to determine just how loud the volume on your music actually is, because it’s not all that easy for us to conceptualize what 80dB sounds like. Differentiating 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more perplexing.

So utilizing one of the many noise free monitoring apps is greatly recommended. 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 correct settings, let you know when the volume goes too high.

The volume of a garbage disposal

Generally speaking, 80 dB is about as noisy as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. So, it’s loud, but it’s not that 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 stay away from noise above this volume. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Maybe minimize loud listening to a song instead of an album.

Over time, loud listening will cause hearing problems. You can develop tinnitus and hearing loss. The more you can be cognizant of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more educated your decision-making will be. And ideally, those decisions lean towards safer listening.

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

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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