Music and Headphones: What’s a Healthy Volume?

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

Aiden enjoys music. While he’s out jogging, he’s listening to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: cardio, cooking, video games, you name it. Everything in his life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the exact thing that Aiden enjoys, the loud, immersive music, might be contributing to permanent damage to his hearing.

For your ears, there are safe ways to listen to music and unsafe ways to listen to music. Unfortunately, most of us choose the more hazardous listening choice.

How can listening to music cause hearing loss?

Over time, loud noises can cause deterioration of your hearing abilities. Normally, we think of aging as the main cause of hearing loss, but more and more research reveals that it’s actually the accumulation of noise-related damage that is the problem here and not anything inherent in the process of aging.

Younger ears that are still developing are, as it turns out, more susceptible to noise-related damage. And yet, the long-term harm from high volume is more likely to be dismissed by young adults. So because of extensive high volume headphone use, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in younger people.

Can you listen to music safely?

It’s obviously hazardous to enjoy music at max volume. But merely turning the volume down is a safer way to listen. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:

  • For adults: Keep the volume at no more than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours per week..
  • 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. That seems like a lot, but it can go by fairly rapidly. But we’re trained to keep track of time our whole lives so the majority of us are rather good at it.

Monitoring 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. It may be 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. 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 tunes?

It’s not really easy to tell how loud 80 decibels is, but luckily there are a few non-intrusive ways to know how loud the volume is. It’s even harder to understand the difference between 80 and 75dB.

So using one of the numerous noise free monitoring apps is greatly advisable. Real-time volumes of the noise around you will be available 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 modify your configurations in your smartphone which will automatically 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 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 at which 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 loud volume can and will cause you to develop hearing problems over the long run. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the consequence. Your decision making will be more informed the more aware you are of when you’re entering the danger zone. And ideally, those decisions lean towards safer listening.

Still have questions about safe listening? Contact us 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.