Music is a major part of Aiden’s life. He listens to Spotify while working, switches to Pandora when jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: cardio, cooking, video games, you name it. His entire life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the very thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, might be causing irreversible harm to his hearing.
For your ears, there are healthy ways to listen to music and hazardous ways to listen to music. However, most of us choose the more hazardous listening choice.
How does listening to music cause hearing loss?
Your ability to hear can be damaged over time by exposure to loud noise. Typically, we think of aging as the primary cause of hearing loss, but more and more research indicates that it’s actually the accumulation of noise-induced damage that is the problem here and not anything inherent in the process of aging.
It also turns out that younger ears are particularly susceptible to noise-induced damage (they’re still growing, after all). And yet, the long-term damage from high volume is more likely to be dismissed by young adults. So there’s an epidemic of younger people with hearing loss thanks, in part, to high volume headphone use.
Can you listen to music safely?
It’s obviously dangerous to listen to music on max volume. But merely turning the volume down is a safer way to listen. The general guidelines 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 reduce the volume to 75dB.
About five hours and forty minutes per day will be about forty hours a week. Though that may seem like a long time, it can feel like it passes rather quickly. Even still, most individuals have a fairly sound concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re trained to do successfully from a really young age.
The harder part is keeping track of your volume. On most smart devices, computers, and televisions, volume isn’t calculated in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. Or it could be 1-10. You may not have a clue how close to max volume you are or even what max volume on your device is.
How can you track the volume of your music?
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. Differentiating 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more perplexing.
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 alterations while monitoring your actual dB level. Or, when listening to music, you can also modify your configurations in your smartphone which will automatically tell you that your volume is too high.
As loud as a garbage disposal
Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is usually about 80 decibels. So, it’s loud, but it’s not that loud. It’s a relevant observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can take without damage.
So you’ll want to be more mindful of those times when you’re moving beyond that decibel threshold. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Perhaps 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 term. You can develop tinnitus and hearing loss. The more you can be aware of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more informed your decision-making will be. And hopefully, those decisions lean towards safer listening.
Give us a call if you still have questions about the safety of your ears.