Music and Headphones: What’s a Safe Volume?

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

Aiden enjoys music. While he’s out running, he’s listening to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: gaming, cooking, gym time, and everything else. His entire life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But lasting hearing damage could be happening due to the very loud immersive music he loves.

As far as your ears are concerned, there are healthy ways to listen to music and hazardous ways to listen to music. However, the majority of us pick the more dangerous listening choice.

How does listening to music result in hearing loss?

Your ability to hear can be compromised over time by exposure to loud noise. Normally, we think of aging as the principal cause of hearing loss, but more and more research reveals that it’s really the accumulation of noise-induced damage that is the issue here and not anything inherent in the aging process.

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

Can you listen to music safely?

It’s obviously dangerous to listen to music at max volume. But merely turning down the volume is a less dangerous way to listen. Here are a couple of general recommendations:

  • For adults: Keep the volume at less than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours per week..
  • For teens and young children: 40 hours is still fine but lower the volume to 75dB.

Forty hours per week is roughly five hours and forty minutes per day. Though that could seem like a long time, it can seem to pass quite quickly. Even still, most people have a pretty reliable concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re taught to do effectively from a really young age.

The more challenging part is monitoring your volume. On most smart devices, computers, and televisions, volume is not measured in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You might have no clue what the max volume is on your device, or how close to the max you are.

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 some non-intrusive ways to tell how loud the volume is. Distinguishing 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more perplexing.

That’s why it’s greatly suggested you use one of many cost-free noise monitoring apps. Real-time volumes of the noise around you will be available from both iPhone and Android apps. In this way, you can make real-time alterations while monitoring your real dB level. Your smartphone will, with the correct settings, let you know when the volume goes too high.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is generally about 80 decibels. That’s not too loud. It’s a significant observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can cope with without damage.

So you’ll want to be more aware of those times at which you’re going beyond that volume threshold. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Maybe limit loud listening to a song rather than an album.

Listening to music at a loud 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 safer listening will hopefully be part of those decisions.

Call 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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