Music is an essential part of Aiden’s life. While he’s out running, 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 entire life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the exact thing that Aiden enjoys, the loud, immersive music, might be causing irreversible harm to his hearing.
There are ways to enjoy music that are healthy for your ears and ways that are not so safe. But the more hazardous listening option is often the one most of us use.
How does listening to music cause hearing loss?
Your ability to hear can be damaged over time by exposure to loud noise. We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as an issue associated with aging, but the latest research is showing that hearing loss isn’t an inherent part of getting older but is instead, the outcome of accumulated noise damage.
It also turns out that younger ears are especially vulnerable to noise-related damage (they’re still growing, after all). And yet, young adults are more inclined to be dismissive of the long-term risks of high volume. So because of extensive high volume headphone usage, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in young people.
Is there a safe way to listen to music?
It’s obviously dangerous to enjoy music on max volume. But there is a safer way to enjoy your tunes, and it usually involves turning down the volume. Here are a couple of basic guidelines:
- For adults: Keep the volume at less than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours a 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 every week. That seems like a lot, but it can go by rather quickly. But we’re conditioned to monitor 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 TVs, volume is not calculated in decibels. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. Maybe it’s 1-100. But perhaps it’s 1-16. You might not have any idea what the max volume on your device is, or how close to the max you are.
How can you keep tabs on the volume of your music?
There are a few 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 conceptualize what 80dB sounds like. Distinguishing 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more puzzling.
That’s why it’s highly recommended you utilize one of numerous 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 alterations while monitoring your actual dB level. Your smartphone will, with the proper settings, let you know when the volume goes too high.
As loud as a garbage disposal
Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is generally about 80 decibels. That’s not too loud. It’s a relevant observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can take without damage.
So you’ll want to be more aware of those times when you’re going beyond that decibel threshold. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the entire album.
Over time, loud listening will cause hearing issues. You can develop hearing loss and tinnitus. The more you can be cognizant of when your ears are entering the danger zone, the more informed your decision-making will be. And hopefully, those decisions lean towards safer listening.
Contact us if you still have questions about keeping your ears safe.