Aiden enjoys music. He listens to Spotify while working, switches to Pandora when jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: cardio, cooking, gaming, you name it. His headphones are almost always on, his life a completely soundtracked affair. But irreversible hearing damage might be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he enjoys.
For your ears, there are safe ways to listen to music and dangerous ways to listen to music. But the more dangerous listening option is frequently the one most of us choose.
How can hearing loss be the result of listening to music?
Your ability to hear can be compromised over time by exposure to loud noise. We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as an issue related to aging, but more recent research is revealing that hearing loss isn’t an inherent part of aging 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, young adults are more likely to be dismissive of the long-term dangers of high volume. So because of extensive high volume headphone use, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in young people.
Can you listen to music safely?
It’s obviously dangerous to listen to music on max volume. But simply turning the volume down is a less dangerous way to listen. The general guidelines 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: You can still listen for 40 hours, but the volume should still be below 75dB.
About five hours and forty minutes a day will be about forty hours every week. That may seem like a lot, but it can go by fairly quickly. But we’re conditioned to monitor time our entire lives so most of us are pretty good at it.
Keeping track of volume is a little less intuitive. On most smart devices, computers, and TVs, volume is not measured in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. Perhaps it’s 1-100. Or it could be 1-10. You might not have any 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?
There are a few non-intrusive, simple 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. Differentiating 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more puzzling.
So using one of the many noise free monitoring apps is highly recommended. Real-time volumes of the noise around you will be obtainable from both iPhone and Android apps. In this way, you can make real-time alterations while monitoring your real dB level. Your smartphone will, with the proper settings, inform you when the volume gets too loud.
As loud as a garbage disposal
Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is typically around 80 decibels. So, it’s loud, but it’s not too loud. It’s a relevant observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can handle without damage.
So you’ll want to be more aware of those times when you’re moving beyond that volume threshold. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Maybe listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the whole album.
Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to have hearing problems over the long term. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the consequence. Your decision making will be more educated 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 safe listening? Call us to go over more options.