Music and Headphones: What’s a Healthy Volume?

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, gaming, you name it. His headphones are almost always on, his life a totally soundtracked event. But the exact thing that Aiden enjoys, the loud, immersive music, may be causing lasting damage to his hearing.

There are ways to listen to music that are healthy for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. However, the majority of us choose the more hazardous listening choice.

How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?

As time passes, 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 discovering that hearing loss isn’t an inherent part of getting older but is instead, the outcome of accumulated noise damage.

Younger ears which are still developing are, as it turns out, more vulnerable to noise-related damage. And yet, the long-term harm from high volume is more likely to be ignored by young adults. So there’s an epidemic of younger individuals with hearing loss thanks, in part, to high volume headphone use.

Can you enjoy music safely?

Unregulated max volume is clearly the “hazardous” way to enjoy music. But merely turning the volume down is a less dangerous way to listen. Here are a couple of basic guidelines:

  • 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 every week. Though that might seem like a while, it can feel like it passes quite quickly. But we’re conditioned to keep track of time our entire lives so most of us are rather good at it.

The harder part is monitoring your volume. Volume isn’t measured in decibels on the majority of smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. It’s measured on some arbitrary scale. Perhaps it’s 1-100. But maybe it’s 1-16. You might not have a clue 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?

There are a few non-intrusive, easy ways to determine just how loud the volume on your music actually is, because it’s not all that easy for us to contemplate exactly what 80dB sounds like. 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. These apps, widely available for both iPhone and Android devices, will give you real-time readouts on the noises around you. In this way, you can make real-time adjustments while monitoring your real dB level. Your smartphone will, with the proper settings, inform you when the volume goes too high.

The volume of a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is typically about 80 decibels. That’s not too loud. It’s a significant observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can take without damage.

So you’ll want to be extra aware of those times when you’re moving beyond that volume threshold. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the entire album.

Over time, loud listening will cause hearing problems. You can develop hearing loss and tinnitus. Your decision making will be more informed the more aware you are of when you’re going into the danger zone. And ideally, those decisions lean towards safer listening.

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

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.