Music and Headphones: What's a Safe Volume?

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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 working, switches to Pandora while jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: gaming, gym time, cooking, and everything else. His entire life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But irreversible hearing damage could be happening due to the very loud immersive music he loves.

As far as your ears are concerned, there are safe ways to listen to music and unsafe ways to listen to music. But the more hazardous listening choice is usually 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. Normally, we think of aging as the main cause of hearing loss, but more and more research suggests that it’s really the accumulation of noise-related damage that is the issue here and not anything inherent in the aging process.

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

Is there a safe way to enjoy music?

It’s obviously dangerous to listen to music at max volume. But merely turning down the volume is a safer way to listen. Here are a couple of general guidelines:

  • 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: You can still listen for 40 hours, but keep the volume level below 75dB.

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

The harder part is monitoring your volume. Volume isn’t measured in decibels on most smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. It’s measured on some arbitrary scale. It may be 1-100. But maybe it’s 1-16. You might have no clue what the max volume is on your device, or how close to the max you are.

How can you monitor the volume of your tunes?

It’s not really 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 puzzling.

That’s why it’s greatly suggested you utilize one of numerous cost-free noise monitoring apps. Real-time readouts of the noise around you will be obtainable from both iPhone and Android apps. In this way, you can make real-time adjustments while monitoring your actual dB level. Or, while listening to music, you can also modify your configurations in your smartphone which will automatically tell you that your volume is too loud.

The volume of a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is typically about 80 decibels. That’s not too loud. It’s an important observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can handle without damage.

So you’ll want to be extra mindful of those times at which you’re going beyond that volume threshold. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Maybe minimize loud listening to a song rather than an album.

Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to have hearing issues over the long run. You can develop tinnitus and hearing loss. Your decision making will be more informed the more mindful you are of when you’re going into the danger zone. And ideally, those decisions lean towards safer listening.

Still have questions about safe listening? Give us a call to go over 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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