Aiden loves music. While he’s out running, he listens to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: gaming, gym time, cooking, and everything else. His entire life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the exact thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, could be causing permanent harm to his hearing.
There are ways to listen to music that are safe for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. Unfortunately, the majority of us choose the more dangerous listening choice.
How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?
Your ability to hear can be compromised over time by exposure to loud noise. Typically, 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 getting older but is instead, the result of accumulated noise damage.
Younger ears that are still growing are, as it turns out, more vulnerable to noise-related damage. And yet, the long-term damage from high volume is more likely to be ignored by younger adults. So because of extensive high volume headphone use, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in younger individuals.
Can you listen to music safely?
Unregulated max volume is clearly the “dangerous” way to listen to music. But there is a safer way to listen to your tunes, and it usually involves turning the volume down. 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: You can still listen for 40 hours, but keep the volume level below 75dB.
Forty hours per week is about five hours and forty minutes per day. Though that could seem like a while, it can feel like it passes rather quickly. Even still, most people have a pretty reliable concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re trained to do effectively from a really young age.
The more challenging part is keeping track of your volume. On most smart devices, computers, and TVs, volume is not calculated in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. It might be 1-100. Or it might be 1-10. You might have no idea what the max volume on your device is, or how close to the max you are.
How can you listen to music while keeping track of your volume?
It’s not very easy to tell how loud 80 decibels is, but fortunately there are some non-intrusive ways to know how loud the volume is. Distinguishing 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more perplexing.
That’s why it’s greatly recommended you utilize one of many free noise monitoring apps. These apps, generally available for both iPhone and Android devices, will provide you with8 real-time readouts on the noises surrounding you. That way you can monitor the dB level of your music in real-time and make adjustments. Or, while listening to music, you can also adjust your settings in your smartphone which will automatically let you know that your volume is too high.
The volume of a garbage disposal
Generally, 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 loud as your ears can cope with without damage.
So you’ll want to be extra aware of those times at which you’re moving beyond that volume threshold. If you happen to listen to some music above 80dB, remember to limit your exposure. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the whole album.
Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to develop hearing problems over the long run. You can develop hearing loss and tinnitus. The more you can be cognizant of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more educated your decision-making will be. And safer listening will hopefully be part of those decisions.
Give us a call if you still have questions about keeping your ears safe.