Aiden enjoys music. He listens to Spotify while at work, 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 permanent damage to his hearing.
There are ways to enjoy music that are safe for your ears and ways that are not so safe. But the more hazardous listening option is often the one most of us choose.
How can hearing loss be the result of listening to music?
Your ability to hear can be damaged over time by exposure to loud noise. Typically, we think of aging as the principal cause of hearing loss, but more and more research suggests that it’s really the accumulation of noise-induced damage that is the problem 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 developing, after all). And yet, younger adults are more likely to be dismissive of the long-term risks of high volume. So there’s an epidemic of younger people with hearing loss thanks, in part, to loud headphone use.
Can you enjoy music safely?
It’s obviously hazardous to enjoy music on max volume. But there is a safer way to enjoy your tunes, and it normally involves turning down the volume. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:
- For adults: Keep the volume at no more than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours a week..
- For teens and young children: 40 hours is still fine but lower the volume to 75dB.
Forty hours every week is about five hours and forty minutes a day. That seems like a lot, but it can go by fairly rapidly. But we’re conditioned to monitor time our whole lives so most of us are rather good at it.
Keeping track of volume is a little less intuitive. On most smart devices, computers, and televisions, volume is not measured in decibels. It’s calculated on some arbitrary scale. Perhaps it’s 1-100. Or it may be 1-10. You might have no clue what the max volume on your device is, or how close to the max you are.
How can you monitor the volume of your music?
It’s not really easy to know how loud 80 decibels is, but thankfully there are a few non-intrusive ways to know how loud the volume is. It’s even harder to determine the difference between 80 and 75dB.
So using one of the numerous noise free monitoring apps is highly suggested. Real-time volumes of the noise around you will be obtainable 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, when listening to music, you can also adjust your configurations 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 above this threshold so it’s a significant observation.
So you’ll want to be extra aware of those times at which you’re moving beyond that volume threshold. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Maybe minimize loud listening to a song rather than an album.
Over time, loud listening will cause hearing problems. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the result. The more you can be conscious of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more informed your decision-making will be. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.
Contact us if you still have questions about the safety of your ears.