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 jogging, he’s listening to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: cardio, cooking, gaming, you name it. His headphones are pretty much always on, his life a fully soundtracked affair. But the very thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, might be contributing to permanent damage to his hearing.

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

How does listening to music result in hearing loss?

Your ability to hear can be damaged over time by exposure to loud noise. Normally, we think of aging as the primary cause of hearing loss, but more recent 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 dangers of high volume. So because of widespread high volume headphone usage, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in younger individuals.

Is there a safe way to enjoy music?

It’s obviously hazardous to enjoy music on max volume. But simply turning the volume down is a safer way to listen. Here are a couple of general guidelines:

  • For adults: 40 hours or less of weekly listening on a device and keep the volume below 80dB.
  • For teens and young children: You can still listen for 40 hours, but the volume should still be below 75dB.

About five hours and forty minutes a day will give you about forty hours a week. Though that could seem like a long time, it can feel like it passes quite quickly. Even still, most people have a fairly solid idea of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re taught to do successfully from a very young age.

Keeping track of volume is a little less user-friendly. Volume isn’t measured in decibels on the majority of smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You may not have any clue what the max volume on your device is, or how close to the max you are.

How can you listen to tunes while keeping track of your volume?

It’s not really 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 harder to understand the difference between 80 and 75dB.

So utilizing one of the many noise free monitoring apps is highly suggested. Real-time readouts of the noise around you will be available from both iPhone and Android apps. That way you can monitor the dB level of your music in real-time and make alterations. 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 usually around 80 decibels. So, it’s loud, but it’s not that loud. Your ears will start to take damage at volumes higher than this threshold so it’s a significant observation.

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

Over time, loud listening will cause hearing problems. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the consequence. The more you can be aware of when your ears are entering the danger zone, the more informed your decision-making can be. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.

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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