Music and Headphones: What’s a Healthy Volume?

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

Aiden loves music. While he’s out running, he listens to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: gaming, cooking, gym time, and everything else. His headphones are pretty much always on, his life a fully soundtracked affair. But the exact thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, could be contributing to lasting damage to his hearing.

As far as your ears are concerned, there are safe ways to listen to music and hazardous ways to listen to music. However, the majority of us opt for the more dangerous listening choice.

How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?

As time passes, loud noises can cause degeneration of your hearing abilities. Normally, we think of aging as the principal cause of hearing loss, but more and more research indicates that it’s actually the accumulation of noise-induced damage that is the issue here and not anything inherent in the process of aging.

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

Can you listen to music safely?

Unregulated max volume is obviously the “hazardous” way to listen to music. 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: 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 lower the volume to 75dB.

Forty hours per week translates into about five hours and forty minutes per day. Though that may seem like a while, 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 taught to do successfully from a really young age.

The harder part is monitoring your volume. On most smart devices, smartphones, and TVs, volume isn’t calculated in decibels. It’s measured on some arbitrary scale. It might be 1-100. Or it might be 1-10. 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 tunes while keeping track of your volume?

There are a few non-intrusive, easy ways to determine just how loud the volume on your music really is, because it’s not all that easy for us to contemplate exactly what 80dB sounds like. Differentiating 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more puzzling.

That’s why it’s greatly suggested you utilize one of numerous free noise monitoring apps. Real-time volumes of the noise around you will be obtainable from both iPhone and Android apps. That way you can track the dB level of your music in real-time and make alterations. Or, when listening to music, you can also modify your configurations in your smartphone which will efficiently tell you that your volume is too high.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is generally about 80 decibels. So, it’s loud, but it’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 avoid noise above this volume. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Maybe minimize loud listening to a song rather than an album.

Over time, loud listening will cause hearing issues. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the outcome. Your decision making will be more informed the more aware you are of when you’re entering the danger zone. And hopefully, those decisions lean towards safer listening.

Give us a call 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.