Music is an essential 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: 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 loves, the loud, immersive music, might 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. But the more dangerous listening option is often the one most of us choose.
How can listening to music result in 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 related to aging, but more and more research suggests that it’s actually the accumulation of noise-induced damage that is the problem here and not anything intrinsic to the aging process.
It also turns out that younger ears are especially susceptible to noise-induced damage (they’re still developing, after all). And yet, the long-term damage from high volume is more likely to be ignored by younger adults. So because of widespread high volume headphone usage, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in young individuals.
Can you enjoy music safely?
Unrestricted max volume is clearly the “hazardous” way to listen to music. But simply turning down the volume is a less dangerous way to listen. The general guidelines for safe volumes are:
- For adults: No more than 40 hours of weekly listening on a device and keep the volume lower than 80dB.
- For teens and young children: You can still listen for 40 hours, but keep the volume level below 75dB.
Forty hours per week is roughly five hours and forty minutes per day. That may seem like a lot, but it can go by fairly rapidly. Even still, most individuals have a fairly sound concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re taught to do successfully from a very young age.
The harder part is keeping track of your volume. On most smart devices, smartphones, 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 may not have a clue how close to max volume you are or even what max volume on your device is.
How can you monitor the volume of your tunes?
There are some non-intrusive, easy ways to determine just how loud the volume on your music really is, because it’s not very easy for us to contemplate what 80dB sounds like. Distinguishing 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more perplexing.
So using one of the numerous noise free monitoring apps is highly recommended. These apps, widely available for both iPhone and Android devices, will give you real-time readouts on the noises around you. In this way, you can make real-time alterations while monitoring your actual dB level. Your smartphone will, with the proper settings, inform you when the volume goes too high.
As loud as a garbage disposal
Generally speaking, 80 dB is about as noisy as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. So, it’s loud, but it’s not that loud. Your ears will start to take damage at volumes higher than this threshold so it’s a significant observation.
So pay close attention and try to avoid noise above this volume. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the entire album.
Over time, loud listening will cause hearing issues. You can develop tinnitus and hearing loss. The more you can be cognizant of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more informed your decision-making can be. And ideally, those decisions lean towards safer listening.
Contact us if you still have questions about the safety of your ears.