Music is an important part of Aiden’s life. He listens to Spotify while at work, switches to Pandora when jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: gaming, cooking, gym time, and everything else. His headphones are pretty much always on, his life a fully soundtracked affair. But irreversible hearing damage may be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he loves.
For your ears, there are healthy ways to listen to music and dangerous ways to listen to music. But the more hazardous listening choice is usually the one most of us use.
How can hearing loss be the result of listening to music?
Your ability to hear can be compromised over time by exposure to loud noise. Typically, we think of aging as the main cause of hearing loss, but more and more research suggests that it’s actually the accumulation of noise-related damage that is the problem here and not anything inherent in the aging process.
It also turns out that younger ears are especially susceptible to noise-induced damage (they’re still growing, after all). And yet, the long-term damage from high volume is more likely to be ignored 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 listen to music?
Unlimited max volume is obviously the “dangerous” way to listen to music. But there is a safer way to listen to your tunes, and it normally involves turning the volume down. The general guidelines for safe volumes are:
- 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.
About five hours and forty minutes per day will be about forty hours a week. Though that might seem like a while, it can feel like it passes quite quickly. But we’re trained to keep track of time our whole lives so most of us are rather good at it.
The harder part is keeping track of your volume. Volume isn’t measured in decibels on the majority of smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. It’s calculated on some arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. Or it might be 1-10. You might 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 really is, because it’s not very easy for us to contemplate what 80dB sounds like. Distinguishing 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more puzzling.
That’s why it’s greatly suggested you use one of many free noise monitoring apps. Real-time volumes of the noise around you will be available from both iPhone and Android apps. In this way, you can make real-time alterations while monitoring your real dB level. Or, while listening to music, you can also adjust your settings in your smartphone which will automatically let you know that your volume is too high.
As loud as a garbage disposal
Generally speaking, 80 dB is about as loud as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. That’s not too loud. Your ears will start to take damage at volumes higher than this threshold so it’s an important observation.
So you’ll want to be extra aware of those times when you’re moving beyond that volume threshold. If you do listen to some music above 80dB, don’t forget to minimize your exposure. 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 have hearing issues over the long run. You can develop tinnitus and hearing loss. The more you can be cognizant of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more educated your decision-making will be. And hopefully, those decisions lean towards safer listening.
Call us if you still have questions about the safety of your ears.