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

Aiden enjoys music. 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. His headphones are just about always on, his life a completely soundtracked affair. But the very thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, could be contributing to lasting damage to his hearing.

As far as your ears are concerned, there are healthy ways to listen to music and unsafe ways to listen to music. However, most of us choose the more hazardous listening choice.

How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?

Your ability to hear can be damaged over time by exposure to loud noise. We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as a problem associated with aging, but more recent research is discovering that hearing loss isn’t an inherent part of aging but is instead, the outcome of accumulated noise damage.

Younger ears that are still developing are, as it turns out, more vulnerable to noise-related damage. And yet, the long-term harm from high volume is more likely to be disregarded by young adults. So because of widespread high volume headphone use, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in younger individuals.

Can you listen to music safely?

Unregulated max volume is obviously the “hazardous” way to listen to music. But merely turning the volume down is a safer way to listen. Here are a couple of basic guidelines:

  • 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 fine but decrease the volume to 75dB.

About five hours and forty minutes per day will give you about forty hours every week. Though that might seem like a long time, it can feel like it passes quite quickly. Even still, most people have a pretty solid concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re trained to do efficiently from a very young age.

Keeping track of volume is a little less user-friendly. Volume isn’t measured in decibels on the majority of smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. It’s measured on some arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. But maybe it’s 1-16. You might 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 tunes while monitoring your volume?

It’s not really easy to know how loud 80 decibels is, but thankfully there are some non-intrusive ways to know how loud the volume is. It’s even harder to understand the difference between 80 and 75dB.

That’s why it’s highly suggested you utilize one of numerous cost-free noise monitoring apps. Real-time volumes of the noise around you will be available from both iPhone and Android apps. 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.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Generally speaking, 80 dB is about as loud as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. That’s not too loud. It’s a relevant observation because 80dB is about as much noise as your ears can cope with without damage.

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 limit loud listening to a song rather than an album.

Over time, loud listening will cause hearing issues. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the outcome. The more you can be conscious of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more informed your decision-making can be. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.

Call us if you still have questions about keeping your ears safe.

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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.
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