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

Aiden enjoys music. While he’s out jogging, he listens to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: cardio, cooking, gaming, you name it. Everything in his life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the very thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, might be causing lasting damage to his hearing.

For your ears, there are safe ways to listen to music and hazardous ways to listen to music. But the more hazardous listening choice is usually 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 a problem related to aging, but current research is showing that hearing loss isn’t an intrinsic part of aging but is instead, the outcome of accumulated noise damage.

It also turns out that younger ears are particularly vulnerable to noise-related damage (they’re still growing, after all). And yet, the long-term damage from high volume is more likely to be disregarded by young adults. So there’s an epidemic of younger people with hearing loss thanks, in part, to high volume headphone use.

Is there a safe way to listen to music?

It’s obviously hazardous to listen to music at max volume. But there is a safer way to listen to your tunes, and it usually involves turning down the volume. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:

  • For adults: Keep the volume at less than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours a week..
  • For teens and young children: 40 hours is still okay but reduce the volume to 75dB.

About five hours and forty minutes per day will give you about forty hours a week. Though that may seem like a while, it can feel like it passes rather quickly. Even still, most people have a pretty sound concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re taught to do successfully from a really young age.

Monitoring volume is a little less intuitive. Volume isn’t gauged in decibels on most smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. It’s calculated on some arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You might 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 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 conceptualize what 80dB sounds like. Differentiating 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more puzzling.

So using one of the many noise free monitoring apps is highly suggested. These apps, generally available for both iPhone and Android devices, will provide you with8 real-time readouts on the noises around you. That way you can track the dB level of your music in real-time and make adjustments. Your smartphone will, with the proper settings, let you know when the volume gets too loud.

The volume of a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is typically around 80 decibels. So, it’s loud, but it’s not too loud. Your ears will start to take damage at volumes above this threshold so it’s an important observation.

So you’ll want to be more mindful of those times when you’re going beyond that volume threshold. If you do listen to some music above 80dB, don’t forget to minimize your exposure. Maybe listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the entire album.

Listening to music at a higher volume can and will cause you to have hearing problems 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 safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.

Still have questions about keeping your ears safe? Contact us to explore more options.

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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.

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