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

Aiden loves music. He listens to Spotify while working, switches to Pandora when 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 lasting hearing damage might be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he enjoys.

There are ways to enjoy music that are safe for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. However, most of us opt for the more dangerous listening choice.

How does listening to music cause hearing loss?

Over time, loud noises can cause deterioration of your hearing abilities. We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as an issue caused by aging, but more and more research reveals that it’s really the accumulation of noise-induced damage that is the problem here and not anything intrinsic to the aging process.

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

Can you enjoy music safely?

It’s obviously hazardous to listen to music on max volume. But there is a safer way to listen to your tunes, and it usually involves turning down the volume. Here are a couple of basic guidelines:

  • For adults: 40 hours or less of weekly listening on a device and keep the volume below 80dB.
  • For teens and young children: You can still listen for 40 hours, but the volume should still be below 75dB.

Forty hours every week is about five hours and forty minutes a day. Though that might seem like a long time, it can feel like it passes quite quickly. Even still, most individuals have a pretty reliable concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re trained to do efficiently from a very young age.

Monitoring volume is a little less user-friendly. On most smart devices, smartphones, and televisions, volume isn’t measured in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. It may be 1-100. Or it may be 1-10. You may not have any 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 music?

It’s not very easy to tell 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 using one of the numerous noise free monitoring apps is greatly recommended. Real-time readouts of the noise around you will be available from both iPhone and Android apps. That way you can keep track of the dB level of your music in real-time and make adjustments. Your smartphone will, with the correct settings, let you know when the volume goes too high.

The volume of a garbage disposal

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

So pay close attention and try to stay clear of noise above this volume. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Maybe 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 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 entering the danger zone. And hopefully, those decisions lean towards safer listening.

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

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