Music and Headphones: What’s a Safe Volume?

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

Aiden loves music. While he’s out running, he’s listening to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for everything he does: gaming, gym time, cooking, and everything else. His headphones are almost always on, his life a completely soundtracked affair. But the exact thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, may be contributing to permanent harm to his hearing.

There are ways to listen to music that are safe for your ears and ways that are not so safe. Regrettably, most of us choose the more dangerous listening choice.

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 an issue associated with aging, but current research is showing that hearing loss isn’t an intrinsic 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, younger adults are more likely to be dismissive of the long-term risks of high volume. So because of extensive high volume headphone usage, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in younger people.

Is there a safe way to listen to music?

It’s obviously hazardous to enjoy music at max volume. But there is a safer way to listen to your tunes, and it typically involves turning down the volume. Here are a couple of basic recommendations:

  • For adults: 40 hours or less 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 keep the volume level below 75dB.

Forty hours every week translates into about five hours and forty minutes per day. Though that might seem like a while, it can feel like it passes rather quickly. But we’re conditioned to keep track of time our entire lives so the majority of us are rather good at it.

Monitoring volume is a little less user-friendly. Volume isn’t gauged in decibels on most smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. Perhaps it’s 1-100. But maybe 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 keep tabs on the volume of your tunes?

It’s not very easy to know how loud 80 decibels is, but fortunately there are a few non-intrusive ways to tell how loud the volume is. It’s even more difficult to determine the difference between 80 and 75dB.

That’s why it’s highly suggested you utilize one of many free noise monitoring apps. 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 alterations while monitoring your actual dB level. Your smartphone will, with the proper settings, let you know when the volume gets too loud.

The volume of a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is usually around 80 decibels. That’s not too loud. It’s an important observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can take without damage.

So you’ll want to be more aware of those times at which you’re going beyond that decibel threshold. If you do listen to some music above 80dB, remember to limit your exposure. Maybe minimize loud listening to a song instead of an album.

Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to have hearing problems over the long run. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the result. The more you can be cognizant 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 the safety of your ears.

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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