Music is an essential 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. His headphones are just about always on, his life a completely soundtracked affair. But irreversible hearing damage might be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he loves.
As far as your ears are concerned, there are healthy ways to listen to music and unsafe ways to listen to music. But the more hazardous listening choice is frequently the one most of us choose.
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. We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as an issue associated with aging, but the latest 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 susceptible to noise-induced damage. And yet, the long-term harm from high volume is more likely to be disregarded by younger adults. So there’s an epidemic of younger people with hearing loss thanks, in part, to loud headphone use.
Can you enjoy music safely?
Unlimited max volume is clearly the “dangerous” way to listen to music. But there is a safer way to enjoy your tunes, and it typically involves turning down the volume. Here are a couple of general recommendations:
- For adults: No more than 40 hours 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 translates into roughly five hours and forty minutes per day. That may seem like a lot, but it can go by fairly rapidly. But we’re taught to keep track of time our whole lives so the majority of us are rather good at it.
The more challenging part is monitoring your volume. On most smart devices, computers, and TVs, volume is not calculated in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. It could be 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You may not have any idea how close to max volume you are or even what max volume on your device is.
How can you listen to music while monitoring your volume?
It’s not really easy to know how loud 80 decibels is, but luckily there are some non-intrusive ways to know how loud the volume is. It’s even harder to determine the difference between 80 and 75dB.
That’s why it’s greatly recommended you use one of numerous cost-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 keep track of the dB level of your music in real-time and make adjustments. Or, while listening to music, you can also modify your settings in your smartphone which will automatically let you know that your volume is too loud.
The volume of a garbage disposal
Generally speaking, 80 dB is about as loud as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. So, it’s loud, but it’s not too loud. It’s a relevant observation because 80dB is about as much noise as your ears can cope with without damage.
So pay close attention and try to avoid noise above this volume. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the entire album.
Over time, loud listening will cause hearing problems. You can develop hearing loss and tinnitus. 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 safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.
Give us a call if you still have questions about the safety of your ears.