Music is a major 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, video games, you name it. Everything in his life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But permanent hearing damage may be happening as a result of the very loud immersive music he enjoys.
There are ways to enjoy music that are healthy for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. Regrettably, the majority of us choose the more dangerous 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. We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as an issue related to aging, but current research is revealing that hearing loss isn’t an intrinsic part of getting older but is instead, the result of accumulated noise damage.
Younger ears which are still growing are, as it turns out, more vulnerable to noise-induced damage. And yet, younger adults are more likely to be dismissive of the long-term risks of high volume. So there’s an epidemic of younger individuals with hearing loss thanks, in part, to loud headphone use.
Is there a safe way to listen to 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 the volume down. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:
- For adults: 40 hours or less of weekly listening on a device and keep the volume below 80dB.
- For teens and young children: 40 hours is still okay but decrease the volume to 75dB.
Forty hours per week translates into about five hours and forty minutes a day. Though that could seem like a while, it can feel like it passes quite quickly. Even still, most individuals have a fairly solid concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re trained to do successfully from a really young age.
The harder part is keeping track of your volume. Volume isn’t gauged in decibels on the majority of smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You may not have any clue what the max volume is on your device, or how close to the max you are.
How can you listen to music while keeping track of your volume?
It’s not very easy to know how loud 80 decibels is, but fortunately there are a few non-intrusive ways to tell how loud the volume is. 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 recommended. Real-time readouts of the noise around you will be available from both iPhone and Android apps. That way you can keep track of the dB level of your music in real-time and make alterations. Your smartphone will, with the correct settings, inform you when the volume gets too loud.
As loud as a garbage disposal
Typically, 80 dB is about as loud as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. That’s not too loud. Your ears will start to take damage at volumes higher than this threshold so it’s a relevant observation.
So pay close attention and try to stay clear of noise above this volume. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Maybe listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the whole album.
Over time, loud listening will cause hearing problems. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the outcome. The more you can be cognizant of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more educated your decision-making will be. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.
Give us a call if you still have questions about keeping your ears safe.