Music and Headphones: What’s a Healthy Volume?

Woman with long dark hair relaxing in a chair in the park listening to headphones

Music is an important part of Aiden’s life. He listens to Spotify while at work, switches to Pandora while jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: cardio, cooking, gaming, you name it. His headphones are just about always on, his life a completely soundtracked affair. But permanent hearing damage may be happening due to the very loud immersive music he loves.

There are ways to enjoy music that are safe 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 can hearing loss be the result of listening to music?

As time passes, loud noises can cause degeneration of your hearing abilities. We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as a problem related to aging, but current research is showing that hearing loss isn’t an intrinsic part of getting older but is instead, the outcome of accumulated noise damage.

Younger ears that 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 young adults. So there’s an epidemic of younger individuals with hearing loss thanks, in part, to high volume headphone use.

Can you listen to music safely?

Unregulated max volume is clearly the “hazardous” way to enjoy music. But there is a safer way to enjoy your tunes, and it typically involves turning down the volume. Here are a couple of basic recommendations:

  • For adults: Keep the volume at less than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours a week..
  • For teens and young children: 40 hours is still okay but lower the volume to 75dB.

Forty hours every week is roughly five hours and forty minutes a day. Though that may seem like a long time, it can feel like it passes quite quickly. But we’re conditioned to keep track of time our whole lives so the majority of us are pretty good at it.

The more challenging part is keeping track of your volume. Volume isn’t gauged in decibels on most smart devices such as TVs, computers, and smartphones. It’s measured on some arbitrary scale. It might be 1-100. Or it could be 1-10. You might 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 a few non-intrusive, simple 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. Distinguishing 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more puzzling.

So using one of the numerous noise free monitoring apps is greatly advisable. Real-time volumes of the noise around you will be available 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 gets too loud.

The volume of a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is generally about 80 decibels. That’s not too loud. Your ears will start to take damage at volumes above this threshold so it’s a relevant observation.

So pay close attention and try to stay away from noise above this volume. If you do listen to some music above 80dB, remember to limit your exposure. Maybe minimize loud listening to a song rather than 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 educated the more mindful you are of when you’re entering the danger zone. And ideally, those decisions lean towards safer listening.

Call us if you still have questions about the safety of your ears.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.