Aiden enjoys music. He listens to Spotify while working, switches to Pandora when jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: gaming, gym time, cooking, and everything else. His headphones are just about always on, his life a completely soundtracked affair. But permanent hearing damage might be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he enjoys.
As far as your ears are concerned, there are safe ways to listen to music and unsafe ways to listen to music. Unfortunately, most of us choose the more hazardous listening choice.
How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?
As time passes, loud noises can lead to degeneration of your hearing abilities. We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as an issue caused by aging, but more and more research indicates that it’s really the accumulation of noise-related damage that is the issue here and not anything inherent in the process of aging.
It also turns out that younger ears are particularly 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 there’s an epidemic of younger individuals with hearing loss thanks, in part, to high volume headphone use.
Is there a safe way to listen to music?
It’s obviously hazardous to listen to 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: Keep the volume at no more than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours per week..
- For teens and young children: 40 hours is still okay but lower the volume to 75dB.
Forty hours every week translates into roughly five hours and forty minutes per day. That seems like a lot, but it can go by rather rapidly. But we’re trained to keep track of time our entire lives so most of us are pretty good at it.
The more challenging part is monitoring your volume. On most smart devices, smartphones, and televisions, volume isn’t measured in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. Or it could be 1-10. You might have no idea what the max volume on your device is, or how close to the max you are.
How can you listen to music while monitoring your volume?
It’s not really easy to tell how loud 80 decibels is, but luckily there are some non-intrusive ways to tell how loud the volume is. Differentiating 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more perplexing.
So using one of the many noise free monitoring apps is highly advisable. These apps, widely available for both iPhone and Android devices, will provide you with8 real-time readouts on the noises around you. In this way, you can make real-time alterations while monitoring your real dB level. Your smartphone will, with the correct settings, inform you when the volume goes too high.
The volume of a garbage disposal
Typically, 80 dB is about as loud as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. So, it’s loud, but it’s not that loud. Your ears will begin to take damage at volumes above this threshold so it’s a relevant observation.
So pay close attention and try to stay clear of noise above this volume. If you happen to listen to some music above 80dB, remember to minimize your exposure. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the whole album.
Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to have hearing issues over the long term. You can develop hearing loss and tinnitus. Your decision making will be more educated the more mindful you are of when you’re entering the danger zone. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.
Still have questions about keeping your ears safe? Call us to explore more options.