Music is a major part of Aiden’s life. While he’s out running, he listens to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: cardio, cooking, video games, you name it. His entire life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But permanent hearing damage could be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he enjoys.
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. We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as a problem related to 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.
It also turns out that younger ears are especially vulnerable to noise-induced damage (they’re still growing, after all). And yet, the long-term damage from high volume is more likely to be ignored by younger adults. So because of widespread high volume headphone use, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in young individuals.
Can you listen to music safely?
It’s obviously dangerous to enjoy music on max volume. But merely turning down the volume is a safer way to listen. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:
- For adults: No more than 40 hours of weekly listening on a device and keep the volume lower than 80dB.
- For teens and young children: 40 hours is still okay but reduce the volume to 75dB.
Forty hours every week translates into roughly five hours and forty minutes per day. Though that might seem like a while, it can seem to pass rather quickly. Even still, most people have a pretty sound concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re trained to do effectively from a really young age.
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. It may be 1-100. Or it might be 1-10. You may have no idea what the max volume on your device is, or how close to the max you are.
How can you listen to tunes while monitoring your volume?
There are a few non-intrusive, simple ways to figure out just how loud the volume on your music actually is, because it’s not very easy for us to conceptualize exactly what 80dB sounds like. Distinguishing 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more perplexing.
That’s why it’s greatly suggested you use one of numerous free noise monitoring apps. These apps, generally available for both iPhone and Android devices, will give you real-time readouts on the noises around you. That way you can track the dB level of your music in real-time and make alterations. Your smartphone will, with the correct settings, let you know when the volume gets too loud.
As loud as a garbage disposal
Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is generally around 80 decibels. So, it’s loud, but it’s not too loud. It’s an important observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can cope with without damage.
So you’ll want to be more mindful of those times when you’re going beyond that decibel threshold. If you happen to listen to some music beyond 80dB, remember to limit your exposure. Maybe listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the whole album.
Over time, loud listening will cause hearing issues. You can develop hearing loss and tinnitus. Your decision making will be more informed the more aware you are of when you’re entering the danger zone. And hopefully, those decisions lean towards safer listening.
Call us if you still have questions about the safety of your ears.