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

Music is an important part of Aiden’s life. While he’s out jogging, he listens to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: gaming, gym time, cooking, and everything else. 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, might be contributing to lasting 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 often the one most of us choose.

How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?

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

It also turns out that younger ears are particularly susceptible to noise-related damage (they’re still developing, after all). And yet, the long-term harm from high volume is more likely to be ignored by younger adults. So because of widespread high volume headphone use, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in younger people.

Can you enjoy music safely?

Unlimited max volume is clearly the “dangerous” way to enjoy music. But there is a safer way to enjoy your tunes, and it typically involves turning the volume down. Here are a couple of general guidelines:

  • For adults: Keep the volume at no more than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours per week..
  • For teens and young children: 40 hours is still okay but reduce the volume to 75dB.

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

The harder part is keeping track of your volume. On most smart devices, smartphones, and TVs, volume isn’t measured in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. It could be 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You may 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 music while keeping track of your volume?

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

That’s why it’s greatly suggested you utilize one of many cost-free noise monitoring apps. These apps, widely available for both iPhone and Android devices, will give you real-time readouts on the noises surrounding you. That way you can keep track of the dB level of your music in real-time and make adjustments. Or, when listening to music, you can also adjust your settings in your smartphone which will automatically let you know that your volume is 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. It’s a relevant observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can handle without damage.

So you’ll want to be more mindful of those times when you’re moving beyond that decibel threshold. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Maybe limit loud listening to a song instead of an album.

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

Still have questions about safe listening? Contact us to explore more options.

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