Music and Headphones: What’s a Safe Volume?

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

Music is an important part of Aiden’s life. He listens to Spotify while at work, switches to Pandora when jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: cardio, cooking, gaming, you name it. His headphones are almost always on, his life a completely soundtracked event. But irreversible hearing damage might be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he loves.

There are ways to enjoy music that are healthy for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. But the more hazardous listening option is often the one most of us use.

How can hearing loss be caused by 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 caused by aging, but the latest research is showing 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 people with hearing loss thanks, in part, to high volume headphone use.

Can you enjoy music safely?

It’s obviously dangerous to enjoy music on max volume. But there is a safer way to listen to your tunes, and it typically involves turning the volume down. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:

  • For adults: Keep the volume at no more than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours a week..
  • For teens and young children: You can still listen for 40 hours, but keep the volume level below 75dB.

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

The more challenging part is keeping track of your volume. On most smart devices, computers, and televisions, volume is not measured in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. It may be 1-100. But maybe it’s 1-16. 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 monitor the volume of your music?

There are some non-intrusive, simple ways to determine just how loud the volume on your music really is, because it’s not very easy for us to conceptualize 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 highly recommended. These apps, generally available for both iPhone and Android devices, will give you real-time readouts on the noises around you. That way you can monitor the dB level of your music in real-time and make alterations. Or, while listening to music, you can also modify your configurations in your smartphone which will efficiently let you know that your volume is too high.

The volume of a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is generally around 80 decibels. That’s not too loud. It’s a relevant observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can handle without damage.

So pay close attention and try to stay away from noise above this volume. If you happen to listen to some music above 80dB, don’t forget to limit your exposure. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the entire album.

Over time, loud listening will cause hearing problems. You can develop tinnitus and hearing loss. The more you can be conscious of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more educated your decision-making will be. And safer listening will hopefully be part of those decisions.

Still have questions about keeping your ears safe? Give us a call to go over more options.

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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