Music is an important 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: gaming, cooking, gym time, and everything else. His headphones are just about always on, his life a totally soundtracked affair. But the very thing that Aiden enjoys, the loud, immersive music, may be causing lasting damage to his hearing.
As far as your ears are concerned, there are safe ways to listen to music and dangerous ways to listen to music. But the more dangerous listening option is usually the one most of us choose.
How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?
Your ability to hear can be damaged over time by exposure to loud noise. Typically, we think of aging as the main cause of hearing loss, but current 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 developing are, as it turns out, more vulnerable to noise-related damage. And yet, young adults are more likely to be dismissive of the long-term hazards of high volume. So there’s an epidemic of younger people with hearing loss thanks, in part, to loud headphone use.
Can you enjoy music safely?
It’s obviously dangerous to listen to music at max volume. But there is a safer way to enjoy your tunes, and it typically involves turning the volume down. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:
- For adults: Keep the volume at less than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours a week..
- For teens and young children: 40 hours is still okay but lower the volume to 75dB.
Forty hours every week is roughly five hours and forty minutes per day. Though that may seem like a long time, it can seem to pass rather quickly. Even still, most people have a fairly sound concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re trained to do successfully from a really young age.
Keeping track of volume is a little less intuitive. On most smart devices, smartphones, and TVs, volume is not calculated in decibels. It’s measured on some arbitrary scale. It might be 1-100. Or it may be 1-10. You might not have any idea how close to max volume you are or even what max volume on your device is.
How can you monitor the volume of your tunes?
There are some 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 conceptualize exactly what 80dB sounds like. Distinguishing 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more puzzling.
That’s why it’s greatly suggested you utilize 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 adjustments. Your smartphone will, with the correct settings, inform you when the volume goes too high.
As loud as a garbage disposal
Generally speaking, 80 dB is about as noisy as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. So, it’s loud, but it’s not too loud. Your ears will start to take damage at volumes higher than this threshold so it’s a significant observation.
So you’ll want to be more mindful of those times when you’re moving beyond that volume threshold. If you do listen to some music above 80dB, remember to limit your exposure. Maybe listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the entire album.
Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to have hearing issues over the long term. You can develop hearing loss and tinnitus. The more you can be aware of when your ears are entering the danger zone, the more educated your decision-making will be. And ideally, those decisions lean towards safer listening.
Still have questions about keeping your ears safe? Call us to go over more options.