Music and Headphones: What’s a Healthy Volume?

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

Aiden loves music. He listens to Spotify while at work, switches to Pandora when jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: cardio, cooking, video games, you name it. His headphones are just about always on, his life a fully soundtracked affair. But permanent hearing damage could be happening as a result of the very loud immersive music he loves.

As far as your ears are concerned, there are healthy ways to listen to music and hazardous ways to listen to music. Unfortunately, most of us choose the more dangerous listening choice.

How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?

Your ability to hear can be damaged over time by exposure to loud noise. Normally, we think of aging as the main cause of hearing loss, but more recent research is discovering that hearing loss isn’t an intrinsic part of aging but is instead, the result of accumulated noise damage.

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

Can you enjoy music safely?

Unlimited max volume is obviously the “dangerous” way to enjoy music. But merely turning down the volume is a less dangerous way to listen. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:

  • For adults: Keep the volume at less than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours per 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 per day. Though that might seem like a long time, it can seem to pass quite quickly. Even still, most individuals have a pretty sound concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re taught to do successfully from a very young age.

The more challenging part is monitoring your volume. Volume isn’t gauged in decibels on most smart devices such as TVs, computers, and smartphones. It’s measured on some arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You might not have any clue what the max volume is on your device, or how close to the max you are.

How can you monitor 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 very easy for us to contemplate exactly what 80dB sounds like. Distinguishing 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more perplexing.

So utilizing one of the many noise free monitoring apps is greatly advisable. Real-time readouts 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 alterations. Your smartphone will, with the proper settings, inform you when the volume goes too high.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Generally speaking, 80 dB is about as loud as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. That’s not too loud. It’s a significant observation because 80dB is about as much noise as your ears can cope with without damage.

So you’ll want to be extra aware of those times when you’re going beyond that decibel threshold. If you do listen to some music above 80dB, don’t forget to minimize your exposure. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the entire album.

Listening to music at a higher volume can and will cause you to have hearing problems over the long term. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the outcome. Your decision making will be more informed the more mindful you are of when you’re going into the danger zone. And hopefully, those decisions lean towards safer listening.

Still have questions about keeping your ears safe? Give us a call to explore 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.