Music and Headphones: What’s a Healthy Volume?

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

Aiden enjoys music. He listens to Spotify while working, switches to Pandora when jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: gaming, cooking, gym time, and everything else. His headphones are pretty much always on, his life a completely soundtracked affair. But lasting hearing damage could be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he enjoys.

For your ears, there are healthy ways to listen to music and unsafe ways to listen to music. But the more dangerous listening choice is frequently the one most of us use.

How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?

As time passes, loud noises can lead to degeneration of your hearing abilities. Normally, we think of aging as the principal cause of hearing loss, but more recent research is showing 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-related damage. And yet, the long-term harm from high volume is more likely to be dismissed by younger adults. So there’s an epidemic of younger people with hearing loss thanks, in part, to loud headphone use.

Is there a safe way to listen to music?

Unlimited max volume is clearly the “dangerous” way to enjoy music. But there is a safer way to listen to your tunes, and it typically 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 lower than 80dB.
  • For teens and young children: You can still listen for 40 hours, but the volume should still be below 75dB.

About five hours and forty minutes per day will be about forty hours a week. That seems like a lot, but it can go by rather rapidly. Even still, most individuals have a fairly reliable idea of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re taught to do effectively from a very young age.

The more challenging part is keeping track of your volume. Volume isn’t gauged in decibels on most smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. It’s calculated on some arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. Or it could be 1-10. You may 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 music while monitoring your volume?

There are a few non-intrusive, easy ways to figure out just how loud the volume on your music actually is, because it’s not very easy for us to contemplate what 80dB sounds like. It’s even more difficult to determine the difference between 80 and 75dB.

That’s why it’s greatly recommended you use one of many free noise monitoring apps. Real-time readouts of the noise around you will be obtainable from both iPhone and Android apps. In this way, you can make real-time adjustments while monitoring your actual dB level. Or, when listening to music, you can also modify your configurations in your smartphone which will automatically let you know that your volume is too high.

The volume of a garbage disposal

Generally speaking, 80 dB is about as loud as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. So, it’s loud, but it’s not too loud. It’s an important observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can take without damage.

So pay close attention and try to stay away from noise above this volume. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Maybe limit loud listening to a song instead of an album.

Listening to music at a higher volume can and will cause you to develop hearing issues over the long run. You can develop hearing loss and tinnitus. The more you can be aware of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more informed your decision-making will be. And safer listening will hopefully be part of those decisions.

Still have questions about keeping your ears safe? Contact us to explore more options.

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.