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

Music is an essential part of Aiden’s life. He listens to Spotify while at work, switches to Pandora while jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: cardio, cooking, video games, you name it. His headphones are almost always on, his life a fully soundtracked affair. But irreversible hearing damage could be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he enjoys.

There are ways to listen to music that are healthy for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. But the more hazardous listening choice is frequently the one most of us choose.

How does listening to music lead to hearing loss?

As time passes, loud noises can cause degeneration of your hearing abilities. Normally, we think of aging as the main cause of hearing loss, but more and more research suggests that it’s really the accumulation of noise-related damage that is the issue here and not anything intrinsic to the aging process.

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

Can you listen to music safely?

It’s obviously hazardous to enjoy music at max volume. But there is a safer way to enjoy your tunes, and it typically involves turning the volume down. Here are a couple of general recommendations:

  • For adults: 40 hours or less 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 keep the volume level below 75dB.

About five hours and forty minutes a day will be about forty hours a week. Though that might seem like a long time, it can feel like it passes quite quickly. Even still, most individuals have a fairly reliable concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re trained to do effectively from a very young age.

Monitoring volume is a little less intuitive. On most smart devices, smartphones, and televisions, volume is not measured in decibels. It’s measured on some arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. But maybe it’s 1-16. You may not have any clue what the max volume on your device is, or how close to the max you are.

How can you listen to tunes while keeping track of your volume?

It’s not very easy to know how loud 80 decibels is, but fortunately there are some non-intrusive ways to know how loud the volume is. It’s even more difficult to understand the difference between 80 and 75dB.

So using one of the many noise free monitoring apps is greatly suggested. 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 adjustments while monitoring your real dB level. Your smartphone will, with the correct settings, inform you when the volume goes too high.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Generally speaking, 80 dB is about as noisy as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. That’s not too loud. It’s an important 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. If you happen to listen to some music above 80dB, don’t forget to minimize your exposure. Maybe minimize loud listening to a song rather than an album.

Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to have hearing problems over the long run. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the consequence. Your decision making will be more informed the more mindful you are of when you’re going into the danger zone. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.

Still have questions about keeping your ears safe? Give us a call to go over more options.

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