Aiden enjoys music. He listens to Spotify while working, switches to Pandora while jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: cardio, cooking, gaming, you name it. Everything in his life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the very thing that Aiden enjoys, the loud, immersive music, could be contributing to permanent harm to his hearing.
There are ways to enjoy music that are healthy for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. But the more dangerous listening choice is often the one most of us use.
How does listening to music cause hearing loss?
Your ability to hear can be damaged over time by exposure to loud noise. We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as an issue caused by aging, but more and more research indicates that it’s actually the accumulation of noise-induced damage that is the issue here and not anything inherent in the aging process.
It also turns out that younger ears are especially vulnerable to noise-related damage (they’re still growing, after all). And yet, younger adults are more likely to be dismissive of the long-term hazards of high volume. So because of widespread high volume headphone usage, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in young individuals.
Is there a safe way to enjoy music?
It’s obviously hazardous to enjoy music at max volume. But there is a safer way to enjoy your tunes, and it normally involves turning down the volume. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:
- For adults: Keep the volume at less than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours per week..
- For teens and young children: 40 hours is still okay but decrease the volume to 75dB.
About five hours and forty minutes per day will be about forty hours every week. That seems like a lot, but it can go by rather quickly. But we’re trained to monitor time our entire lives so most of us are pretty good at it.
The harder part is keeping track of your volume. Volume isn’t gauged in decibels on most smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. It could be 1-100. Or it may 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, easy ways to determine 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. It’s even more difficult to determine the difference between 80 and 75dB.
So using one of the many noise free monitoring apps is greatly suggested. These apps, generally available for both iPhone and Android devices, will give you real-time readouts on the noises surrounding you. In this way, you can make real-time adjustments while monitoring your real dB level. Your smartphone will, with the correct settings, let you know when the volume gets too loud.
The volume of a garbage disposal
Typically, 80 dB is about as noisy as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. So, it’s loud, but it’s not that loud. It’s a relevant observation because 80dB is about as much noise as your ears can take without damage.
So pay close attention and try to stay away from noise above this volume. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the entire album.
Listening to music at a higher volume can and will cause you to have hearing problems over the long term. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the outcome. Your decision making will be more informed the more aware 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? Contact us to go over more options.