Aiden enjoys music. While he’s out running, he’s listening to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for all his activities: cardio, cooking, gaming, you name it. His entire life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the very thing that Aiden enjoys, the loud, immersive music, may be contributing to lasting damage to his hearing.
There are ways to listen to music that are safe for your ears and ways that are not so safe. But the more hazardous listening choice is frequently the one most of us use.
How can listening to music lead to hearing loss?
As time passes, loud noises can lead to degeneration of your hearing abilities. Typically, we think of aging as the primary cause of hearing loss, but more and more research reveals that it’s really the accumulation of noise-induced damage that is the issue here and not anything inherent in the process of aging.
Younger ears that are still developing are, as it turns out, more susceptible to noise-induced damage. And yet, the long-term harm from high volume is more likely to be disregarded by younger adults. So because of widespread high volume headphone use, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in younger individuals.
Can you listen to music safely?
It’s obviously hazardous to enjoy music on max volume. But there is a safer way to listen to your tunes, and it typically involves turning the volume down. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:
- For adults: Keep the volume at no more 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.
Forty hours per week is about five hours and forty minutes per day. That may seem like a lot, but it can go by fairly rapidly. But we’re conditioned to keep track of time our entire lives so most of us are rather good at it.
The harder part is keeping track of your volume. Volume isn’t measured in decibels on the majority of smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. It’s calculated on some arbitrary scale. Perhaps it’s 1-100. Or it might be 1-10. You might have no clue what the max volume is on your device, or how close to the max you are.
How can you monitor the volume of your tunes?
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 conceptualize what 80dB sounds like. Differentiating 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more puzzling.
So using one of the many noise free monitoring apps is greatly advisable. These apps, generally available for both iPhone and Android devices, will give you real-time readouts on the noises around you. In this way, you can make real-time adjustments while monitoring your real dB level. Your smartphone will, with the correct settings, let you know when the volume gets too loud.
The volume of a garbage disposal
Generally speaking, 80 dB is about as loud as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. That’s not too loud. Your ears will begin to take damage at volumes higher than this threshold so it’s a relevant observation.
So you’ll want to be extra mindful of those times when you’re moving beyond that volume threshold. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Maybe limit loud listening to a song instead of an album.
Over time, loud listening will cause hearing problems. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the result. The more you can be conscious of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more informed your decision-making will be. And hopefully, those decisions lean towards safer listening.
Still have questions about safe listening? Call us to explore more options.