Music is an essential part of Aiden’s life. While he’s out running, he’s listening to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for everything he does: gaming, gym time, cooking, and everything else. Everything in his life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But irreversible hearing damage could be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he loves.
There are ways to enjoy music that are healthy for your ears and ways that are not so safe. However, the majority of us opt for the more hazardous 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 the latest research is revealing that hearing loss isn’t an inherent part of getting older but is instead, the outcome of accumulated noise damage.
Younger ears which are still growing are, as it turns out, more vulnerable to noise-induced damage. And yet, the long-term harm from high volume is more likely to be dismissed by younger adults. So because of extensive high volume headphone usage, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in younger people.
Is there a safe way to enjoy music?
Unregulated max volume is obviously the “dangerous” way to listen to music. But merely turning down the volume is a safer way to listen. The general guidelines for safe volumes are:
- For adults: 40 hours or less of weekly listening on a device and keep the volume lower than 80dB.
- For teens and young children: 40 hours is still okay but decrease the volume to 75dB.
Forty hours every week translates into roughly five hours and forty minutes a day. That may seem like a lot, but it can go by rather rapidly. But we’re trained to keep track of time our entire lives so most of us are pretty good at it.
Keeping track of volume is a little less user-friendly. 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. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You may have no clue what the max volume on your device is, or how close to the max you are.
How can you listen to tunes while monitoring your volume?
There are a few non-intrusive, simple ways to determine just how loud the volume on your music really is, because it’s not all that easy for us to contemplate exactly what 80dB sounds like. It’s even more difficult to determine the difference between 80 and 75dB.
So using one of the many noise free monitoring apps is highly recommended. 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 proper settings, let you know when the volume goes too high.
As loud as a garbage disposal
Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is generally about 80 decibels. So, it’s loud, but it’s not that loud. It’s a relevant observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can handle without damage.
So pay close attention and try to stay clear of noise above this volume. If you happen to listen to some music above 80dB, don’t forget to minimize your exposure. Maybe listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the entire album.
Over time, loud listening will cause hearing problems. You can develop tinnitus and hearing loss. Your decision making will be more informed the more aware you are of when you’re entering the danger zone. And safer listening will hopefully be part of those decisions.
Still have questions about keeping your ears safe? Contact us to go over more options.