Music and Headphones: What’s a Safe Volume?

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

Aiden enjoys music. While he’s out jogging, he listens 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 the very thing that Aiden enjoys, the loud, immersive music, may be causing irreversible harm to his hearing.

As far as your ears are concerned, there are safe ways to listen to music and hazardous ways to listen to music. But the more hazardous listening choice is frequently the one most of us choose.

How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?

Over time, loud noises can lead to deterioration of your hearing abilities. We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as a problem caused by aging, but more recent research is revealing that hearing loss isn’t an inherent part of getting older but is instead, the result of accumulated noise damage.

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

Is there a safe way to listen to music?

Unlimited max volume is clearly the “dangerous” way to listen to music. But there is a safer way to listen to your tunes, and it normally involves turning the volume down. Here are a couple of general guidelines:

  • For adults: No more than 40 hours 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 every week translates into about five hours and forty minutes per day. That seems like a lot, but it can go by fairly quickly. But we’re taught to monitor time our whole lives so the majority of us are rather good at it.

Monitoring volume is a little less user-friendly. Volume isn’t measured in decibels on most smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. It’s calculated on some arbitrary scale. It could be 1-100. But maybe it’s 1-16. 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 listen to tunes while monitoring your volume?

There are some non-intrusive, easy ways to determine just how loud the volume on your music actually is, because it’s not very easy for us to contemplate exactly what 80dB sounds like. Differentiating 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more perplexing.

That’s why it’s highly suggested you use one of numerous free noise monitoring apps. Real-time volumes 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 adjustments. Or, while listening to music, you can also modify your settings in your smartphone which will efficiently let you know that your volume is too high.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Generally, 80 dB is about as loud as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. So, it’s loud, but it’s not too loud. Your ears will begin to take damage at volumes above this threshold so it’s a relevant observation.

So you’ll want to be extra aware of those times when you’re going beyond that volume threshold. If you do listen to some music beyond 80dB, don’t forget to minimize your exposure. Maybe listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the entire album.

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

Give us a call 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.