Aiden enjoys music. While he’s out running, he listens to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: gaming, cooking, gym time, and everything else. His headphones are almost always on, his life a fully soundtracked event. But the exact thing that Aiden enjoys, the loud, immersive music, may be contributing to permanent harm to his hearing.
As far as your ears are concerned, there are healthy ways to listen to music and dangerous ways to listen to music. But the more dangerous listening choice is often the one most of us use.
How does listening to music lead to hearing loss?
As time passes, loud noises can cause deterioration of your hearing abilities. We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as a problem caused by aging, but current research is showing that hearing loss isn’t an inherent part of getting older but is instead, the outcome of accumulated noise damage.
Younger ears that are still growing are, as it turns out, more susceptible to noise-related damage. And yet, the long-term harm from high volume is more likely to be ignored 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?
It’s obviously dangerous to enjoy music at max volume. But simply turning down the volume is a less dangerous way to listen. Here are a couple of general recommendations:
- For adults: Keep the volume at no more than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours per week..
- For teens and young children: You can still listen for 40 hours, but keep the volume level below 75dB.
About five hours and forty minutes per day will give you about forty hours a week. Though that could seem like a while, it can seem to pass rather quickly. But we’re trained to monitor time our entire lives so most of us are rather good at it.
Keeping track of volume is a little less user-friendly. On most smart devices, smartphones, and televisions, volume is not calculated in decibels. It’s measured on some arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. Or it might be 1-10. You might not have any idea how close to max volume you are or even what max volume on your device is.
How can you track the volume of your music?
It’s not very easy to know how loud 80 decibels is, but luckily there are a few non-intrusive ways to know how loud the volume is. Distinguishing 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more puzzling.
So using one of the many 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 surrounding you. That way you can monitor the dB level of your music in real-time and make adjustments. Your smartphone will, with the proper settings, let you know when the volume gets too loud.
As loud as 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 higher than this threshold so it’s an important observation.
So pay close attention and try to stay clear of noise above this volume. And minimize 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 problems. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the result. Your decision making will be more informed the more aware you are of when you’re going into the danger zone. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.
Still have questions about safe listening? Call us to explore more options.