Music and Headphones: What’s a Healthy Volume?

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

Music is a major part of Aiden’s life. While he’s out jogging, he’s listening to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: cardio, cooking, gaming, you name it. Everything in his life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But permanent hearing damage could be happening as a result of the very loud immersive music he enjoys.

For your ears, there are safe ways to listen to music and unsafe ways to listen to music. But the more dangerous listening option is usually the one most of us choose.

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 accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as an issue caused by aging, but the latest research is revealing 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 particularly susceptible to noise-related 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 there’s an epidemic of younger people with hearing loss thanks, in part, to high volume headphone use.

Is there a safe way to enjoy music?

It’s obviously hazardous to enjoy music at max volume. But simply turning the volume down is a less dangerous way to listen. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:

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

About five hours and forty minutes per day will give you about forty hours every week. Though that might seem like a while, it can feel like it passes quite quickly. But we’re conditioned to keep track of time our entire lives so most of us are rather good at it.

The harder part is keeping track of your volume. On most smart devices, computers, and TVs, volume is not measured in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. It may be 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You might have no idea what the max volume is on your device, or how close to the max you are.

How can you listen to tunes while keeping track of your volume?

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

That’s why it’s greatly suggested you use one of many cost-free noise monitoring apps. Real-time volumes 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 real dB level. Your smartphone will, with the proper settings, inform you when the volume gets too loud.

As loud as a garbage disposal

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

So you’ll want to be more mindful of those times when you’re going beyond that volume threshold. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the whole album.

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

Call us if you still have questions about keeping your ears safe.

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.

Questions?

    Theos Audiology Solutions, LLC

    Peru, IL

    2200 Marquette Rd. Ste. 115Peru, IL 61354

    Call or Text: 815-374-7954

    Mon - Thurs: 9am - 4pm
    Fri: 9am - 3pm

    Galesburg, IL

    360 E. Losey St. Galesburg, IL 61401

    Call or Text: 309-315-3506

    Mon - Thurs: 8am - 4pm
    Fri: by appointment only


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