Hearing Health Blog

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

Aiden enjoys music. He listens to Spotify while at work, switches to Pandora when jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: cardio, cooking, video games, you name it. His headphones are pretty much always on, his life a fully soundtracked event. But permanent hearing damage might be happening as a result of the very loud immersive music he loves.

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 frequently 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 an issue associated with aging, but current research is discovering that hearing loss isn’t an inherent part of getting older but is instead, the outcome of accumulated noise damage.

Younger ears which are still developing are, as it turns out, more vulnerable to noise-related damage. And yet, the long-term damage from high volume is more likely to be dismissed by young adults. So there’s an epidemic of younger individuals with hearing loss thanks, in part, to loud headphone use.

Can you listen to music safely?

Unregulated max volume is clearly the “hazardous” way to enjoy music. But simply turning the volume down is a less dangerous way to listen. Here are a couple of general recommendations:

  • For adults: No more than 40 hours of weekly listening on a device and keep the volume lower than 80dB.
  • For teens and young children: 40 hours is still fine but lower the volume to 75dB.

About five hours and forty minutes a day will give you about forty hours every week. That may seem like a lot, but it can go by rather quickly. But we’re taught to monitor time our entire lives so most of us are rather good at it.

The harder part is monitoring your volume. Volume isn’t measured in decibels on the majority of smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. It’s calculated on some arbitrary scale. It may be 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You might not have any idea what the max volume is on your device, or how close to the max you are.

How can you track the volume of your tunes?

There are a few non-intrusive, easy ways to figure out just how loud the volume on your music really is, because it’s not very easy for us to contemplate exactly 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. 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 proper 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 too loud. It’s an important observation because 80dB is about as much noise as your ears can handle without damage.

So you’ll want to be extra aware of those times at which you’re moving beyond that volume threshold. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Maybe limit loud listening to a song instead of an 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 mindful you are of when you’re going into the danger zone. And safer listening will hopefully be part of those decisions.

Still have questions about safe listening? Contact us to explore 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.
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