Music and Headphones: What’s a Safe Volume?

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

Music is an essential part of Aiden’s life. 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 entire life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the very thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, may be causing irreversible damage to his hearing.

There are ways to listen to music that are healthy for your ears and ways that are not so safe. Regrettably, most of us pick the more hazardous listening choice.

How can hearing loss be caused by listening to music?

As time passes, loud noises can lead to deterioration of your hearing abilities. We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as a problem associated with aging, but more recent research is revealing 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 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 disregarded by younger adults. So there’s an epidemic of younger people with hearing loss thanks, in part, to high volume headphone use.

Is there a safe way to enjoy music?

Unlimited max volume is obviously the “hazardous” way to enjoy 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 basic 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: You can still listen for 40 hours, but keep the volume level below 75dB.

About five hours and forty minutes a day will be about forty hours a week. Though that could seem like a long time, it can seem to pass rather quickly. But we’re taught to monitor time our entire lives so the majority of us are pretty good at it.

The harder part is keeping track of your volume. On most smart devices, smartphones, and televisions, volume isn’t measured in decibels. It’s measured on some arbitrary scale. It could be 1-100. But maybe it’s 1-16. You might not have a clue how close to max volume you are or even what max volume on your device is.

How can you track the volume of your tunes?

It’s not very easy to know how loud 80 decibels is, but fortunately there are some non-intrusive ways to tell how loud the volume is. Differentiating 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more puzzling.

That’s why it’s highly suggested you use one of numerous cost-free noise monitoring apps. Real-time readouts of the noise around you will be available from both iPhone and Android apps. In this way, you can make real-time alterations while monitoring your real dB level. Or, while listening to music, you can also adjust your configurations in your smartphone which will automatically tell you that your volume is too loud.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is usually around 80 decibels. That’s not too loud. Your ears will start to take damage at volumes above this threshold so it’s a significant observation.

So pay close attention and try to stay away from 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.

Listening to music at a higher volume can and will cause you to develop hearing problems over the long term. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the result. 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.

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.