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 while jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: 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 damage to his hearing.

There are ways to listen to music that are safe for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. But the more dangerous listening option is frequently the one most of us use.

How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?

Over time, loud noises can lead to degeneration of your hearing abilities. We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as an issue caused by 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 especially susceptible to noise-related damage (they’re still developing, after all). And yet, the long-term damage from high volume is more likely to be ignored 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?

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

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

About five hours and forty minutes a day will give you about forty hours every week. Though that may seem like a while, it can seem to pass rather quickly. But we’re trained to keep track of time our whole lives so most of us are rather good at it.

Monitoring volume is a little less intuitive. On most smart devices, smartphones, and televisions, volume isn’t measured in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. It might be 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You might not have a clue how close to max volume you are or even what max volume on your device is.

How can you listen to tunes while monitoring your volume?

It’s not very easy to know how loud 80 decibels is, but luckily 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.

So utilizing one of the numerous noise free monitoring apps is highly recommended. These apps, generally available for both iPhone and Android devices, will give you real-time readouts on the noises surrounding you. In this way, you can make real-time adjustments while monitoring your actual dB level. Your smartphone will, with the correct settings, let you know when the volume gets too loud.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Generally speaking, 80 dB is about as noisy as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. That’s not too loud. Your ears will start to take damage at volumes above this threshold so it’s a relevant observation.

So you’ll want to be more aware of those times at which you’re going beyond that volume threshold. If you do listen to some music above 80dB, remember to limit your exposure. Maybe listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the whole album.

Over time, loud listening will cause hearing issues. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the outcome. 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.

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.