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

Aiden loves music. While he’s out jogging, he listens to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for everything he does: gaming, cooking, gym time, and everything else. His entire life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the very thing that Aiden enjoys, the loud, immersive music, might be causing permanent harm to his hearing.

There are ways to enjoy music that are healthy for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. However, the majority of us pick the more dangerous listening choice.

How does listening to music cause hearing loss?

As time passes, loud noises can cause degeneration of your hearing abilities. We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as an issue associated with aging, but more and more research indicates that it’s really the accumulation of noise-related damage that is the problem here and not anything inherent in the process of aging.

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

Is there a safe way to listen to music?

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

  • For adults: No more than 40 hours 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.

Forty hours per week translates into roughly five hours and forty minutes a day. Though that may seem like a long time, it can seem to pass rather quickly. Even still, most individuals have a fairly solid idea of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re taught to do effectively from a really young age.

Monitoring volume is a little less intuitive. 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. Or it might be 1-10. You might 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?

There are a few non-intrusive, simple ways to determine just how loud the volume on your music actually is, because it’s not very easy for us to conceptualize what 80dB sounds like. It’s even harder to determine the difference between 80 and 75dB.

So using one of the numerous noise free monitoring apps is highly advisable. 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 actual dB level. Or, when listening to music, you can also modify your settings in your smartphone which will efficiently tell you that your volume is too high.

The volume of a garbage disposal

Generally, 80 dB is about as loud as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. That’s not too loud. It’s a relevant observation because 80dB is about as much noise as your ears can cope with without damage.

So you’ll want to be extra mindful of those times at which you’re moving beyond that decibel threshold. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the entire album.

Listening to music at a higher volume can and will cause you to have hearing issues over the long run. You can develop hearing loss and tinnitus. Your decision making will be more educated 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? Call 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.