Music is an important part of Aiden’s life. While he’s out jogging, he’s listening 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 completely soundtracked affair. But permanent hearing damage could be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he loves.
For your ears, there are safe ways to listen to music and unsafe ways to listen to music. But the more dangerous listening choice is often 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 principal cause of hearing loss, but more and more research suggests that it’s really the accumulation of noise-induced damage that is the issue here and not anything intrinsic to the process of aging.
Younger ears which are still growing are, as it turns out, more susceptible 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 individuals with hearing loss thanks, in part, to loud headphone use.
Can you listen to music safely?
Unlimited max volume is clearly the “dangerous” way to enjoy music. But merely turning down the volume is a safer way to listen. Here are a couple of basic recommendations:
- For adults: No more than 40 hours of weekly listening on a device and keep the volume below 80dB.
- For teens and young children: You can still listen for 40 hours, but keep the volume level below 75dB.
Forty hours every week translates into about five hours and forty minutes a day. Though that could seem like a while, it can feel like it passes rather quickly. But we’re trained to monitor time our entire lives so the majority of us are rather good at it.
Keeping track of volume is a little less intuitive. Volume isn’t gauged in decibels on the majority of smart devices such as TVs, computers, and smartphones. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. Perhaps it’s 1-100. Or it might be 1-10. You may not have any idea how close to max volume you are or even what max volume on your device is.
How can you listen to tunes while monitoring your volume?
There are some non-intrusive, simple ways to figure out just how loud the volume on your music actually is, because it’s not all that easy for us to contemplate what 80dB sounds like. Differentiating 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more perplexing.
That’s why it’s highly recommended you use one of numerous cost-free noise monitoring apps. Real-time volumes of the noise around you will be obtainable from both iPhone and Android apps. That way you can monitor 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.
The volume of a garbage disposal
Typically, 80 dB is about as noisy as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. That’s not too loud. Your ears will begin to take damage at volumes above this threshold so it’s an important observation.
So pay close attention and try to avoid noise above this volume. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Maybe limit loud listening to a song instead of an album.
Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to develop hearing issues over the long term. You can develop tinnitus and hearing loss. Your decision making will be more informed the more mindful you are of when you’re entering the danger zone. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.
Give us a call if you still have questions about the safety of your ears.