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

Aiden enjoys music. While he’s out jogging, he listens to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: cardio, cooking, video games, you name it. Everything in his life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the very thing that Aiden enjoys, the loud, immersive music, may be causing permanent harm to his hearing.

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

How can hearing loss be the result of listening to music?

Your ability to hear can be damaged over time by exposure to loud noise. We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as an issue associated with aging, but more recent research is discovering that hearing loss isn’t an inherent part of getting older but is instead, the result of accumulated noise damage.

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

Can you listen to music safely?

It’s obviously dangerous to listen to music on max volume. But simply turning down the volume is a safer way to listen. The general guidelines for safe volumes are:

  • For adults: 40 hours or less of weekly listening on a device and keep the volume below 80dB.
  • For teens and young children: 40 hours is still fine but reduce the volume to 75dB.

Forty hours per week is roughly five hours and forty minutes per day. That may seem like a lot, but it can go by fairly rapidly. But we’re trained to keep track of time our whole lives so the majority of us are pretty good at it.

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

How can you listen to music while monitoring your volume?

It’s not really easy to tell how loud 80 decibels is, but luckily there are a few non-intrusive ways to tell how loud the volume is. Distinguishing 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more puzzling.

So using one of the many noise free monitoring apps is greatly advisable. These apps, widely available for both iPhone and Android devices, will provide you with8 real-time readouts on the noises around you. In this way, you can make real-time alterations while monitoring your real dB level. Your smartphone will, with the correct settings, inform you when the volume gets too loud.

The volume of a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is typically about 80 decibels. That’s not too loud. Your ears will begin to take damage at volumes higher than this threshold so it’s an important observation.

So pay close attention and try to stay away from noise above this volume. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the whole album.

Listening to music at a higher volume can and will cause you to have hearing issues over the long term. You can develop tinnitus and hearing loss. The more you can be cognizant of when your ears are entering the danger zone, the more informed your decision-making can be. And hopefully, those decisions lean towards safer listening.

Give us a call if you still have questions about the safety of your ears.

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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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