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 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 totally soundtracked event. But irreversible hearing damage may be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he enjoys.

For your ears, there are safe ways to listen to music and dangerous ways to listen to music. But the more dangerous listening choice is often the one most of us use.

How does listening to music cause hearing loss?

Over time, loud noises can lead to deterioration of your hearing abilities. We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as an issue related to aging, but the latest research is showing that hearing loss isn’t an intrinsic part of getting older but is instead, the result of accumulated noise damage.

It also turns out that younger ears are especially susceptible to noise-induced damage (they’re still developing, after all). And yet, the long-term damage from high volume is more likely to be disregarded by young adults. So because of extensive high volume headphone use, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in young people.

Is there a safe way to enjoy music?

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

  • 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 lower the volume to 75dB.

Forty hours per week translates into roughly five hours and forty minutes per day. Though that might seem like a long time, it can feel like it passes quite quickly. Even still, most people have a pretty reliable concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re trained to do effectively from a very young age.

Monitoring volume is a little less intuitive. On most smart devices, computers, and televisions, volume is not calculated in decibels. It’s measured on some arbitrary scale. It could be 1-100. Or it could be 1-10. You may have no idea what the max volume is on your device, or how close to the max you are.

How can you monitor the volume of your tunes?

It’s not really easy to tell how loud 80 decibels is, but thankfully there are some non-intrusive ways to tell how loud the volume is. It’s even more difficult to understand the difference between 80 and 75dB.

That’s why it’s greatly recommended you use one of numerous cost-free noise monitoring apps. These apps, widely available for both iPhone and Android devices, will give you real-time readouts on the noises surrounding you. That way you can monitor the dB level of your music in real-time and make adjustments. Your smartphone will, with the correct settings, let you know when the volume gets too loud.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is typically about 80 decibels. So, it’s loud, but it’s not that loud. It’s a significant observation because 80dB is about as much noise as your ears can take without damage.

So you’ll want to be more mindful of those times at which you’re moving beyond that volume threshold. If you happen to listen to some music beyond 80dB, don’t forget to minimize your exposure. Maybe listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the entire album.

Over time, loud listening will cause hearing issues. You can develop hearing loss and tinnitus. Your decision making will be more informed the more aware you are of when you’re going into the danger zone. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.

Still have questions about safe listening? Contact us to go over more options.

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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.