Music and Headphones: What’s a Healthy Volume?

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

Aiden loves music. While he’s out jogging, 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 pretty much always on, his life a totally soundtracked affair. But irreversible hearing damage could be happening as a result of the very loud immersive music he enjoys.

For your ears, there are healthy ways to listen to music and hazardous ways to listen to music. However, the majority of us pick the more dangerous listening choice.

How does listening to music result in hearing loss?

As time passes, loud noises can lead to degeneration of your hearing abilities. We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as an issue associated with aging, but more and more research reveals that it’s really the accumulation of noise-induced damage that is the problem here and not anything inherent in the aging process.

Younger ears that are still growing are, as it turns out, more susceptible to noise-related damage. And yet, young adults are more inclined to be dismissive of the long-term risks of high volume. 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?

Unlimited max volume is clearly the “dangerous” way to enjoy music. But simply turning the volume down is a safer way to listen. Here are a couple of basic recommendations:

  • 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 keep the volume level below 75dB.

Forty hours every week is roughly five hours and forty minutes a day. Though that might seem like a while, it can seem to pass rather quickly. Even still, most people have a fairly sound concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re taught to do effectively from a very young age.

The more challenging part is monitoring your volume. On most smart devices, smartphones, and TVs, volume isn’t calculated in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. Perhaps it’s 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 music while monitoring your volume?

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

So using one of the numerous noise free monitoring apps is greatly suggested. These apps, widely available for both iPhone and Android devices, will provide you with8 real-time readouts on the noises around you. That way you can monitor the dB level of your music in real-time and make adjustments. Or, while 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, 80 dB is about as noisy as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. So, it’s loud, but it’s not that loud. It’s a relevant observation because 80dB is about as much noise as your ears can cope with without damage.

So you’ll want to be more aware of those times at which you’re moving beyond that volume threshold. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Maybe listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the entire album.

Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to have hearing problems over the long term. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the outcome. The more you can be aware of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more educated your decision-making will be. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.

Contact 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.