Music is a major part of Aiden’s life. He listens to Spotify while working, switches to Pandora while jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: gaming, gym time, cooking, and everything else. His entire life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the very thing that Aiden enjoys, the loud, immersive music, might be causing lasting harm to his hearing.
There are ways to listen to music that are healthy for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. But the more dangerous listening option is frequently the one most of us choose.
How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?
Over time, loud noises can lead to degeneration of your hearing abilities. Typically, we think of aging as the main cause of hearing loss, but more recent research is showing that hearing loss isn’t an intrinsic part of aging but is instead, the outcome of accumulated noise damage.
Younger ears that are still growing are, as it turns out, more vulnerable to noise-induced damage. And yet, younger adults are more inclined to be dismissive of the long-term hazards of high volume. 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 enjoy music?
Unregulated max volume is obviously the “dangerous” way to enjoy music. But simply turning the volume down is a less dangerous way to listen. 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: You can still listen for 40 hours, but keep the volume level below 75dB.
Forty hours per week is roughly five hours and forty minutes a day. That may seem like a lot, but it can go by fairly quickly. But we’re conditioned to monitor time our whole lives so most of us are pretty good at it.
The more challenging part is monitoring your volume. Volume isn’t gauged in decibels on the majority of smart devices such as TVs, computers, and smartphones. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. Or it might be 1-10. You may have no clue 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 a few non-intrusive, simple ways to figure out just how loud the volume on your music really is, because it’s not very easy for us to contemplate 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 many free noise monitoring apps. Real-time volumes of the noise around you will be available from both iPhone and Android apps. That way you can monitor the dB level of your music in real-time and make alterations. Or, when listening to music, you can also adjust your settings in your smartphone which will efficiently tell you that your volume is too loud.
As loud as a garbage disposal
Typically, 80 dB is about as loud 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 relevant observation.
So you’ll want to be more aware of those times when you’re moving beyond that volume threshold. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Maybe listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the whole album.
Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to develop hearing problems over the long term. You can develop hearing loss and tinnitus. The more you can be aware of when your ears are entering the danger zone, the more informed your decision-making will be. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.
Give us a call if you still have questions about keeping your ears safe.