Music and Headphones: What’s a Healthy Volume?

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

Aiden enjoys music. He listens to Spotify while working, switches to Pandora when jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: cardio, cooking, gaming, you name it. His headphones are pretty much always on, his life a completely soundtracked affair. But the exact thing that Aiden enjoys, the loud, immersive music, could be causing permanent damage to his hearing.

As far as your ears are concerned, there are healthy ways to listen to music and unsafe ways to listen to music. But the more dangerous listening choice is usually the one most of us choose.

How can listening to music result in hearing loss?

Your ability to hear can be compromised over time by exposure to loud noise. We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as an issue associated with aging, but current research is revealing that hearing loss isn’t an inherent part of aging but is instead, the outcome of accumulated noise damage.

It also turns out that younger ears are especially vulnerable to noise-induced damage (they’re still growing, after all). And yet, young adults are more likely to be dismissive of the long-term dangers of high volume. So there’s an epidemic of younger individuals with hearing loss thanks, in part, to loud headphone use.

Is there a safe way to enjoy music?

It’s obviously hazardous to enjoy music at max volume. But there is a safer way to enjoy your tunes, and it typically involves turning the volume down. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:

  • 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.

About five hours and forty minutes per day will be about forty hours a week. That seems like a lot, but it can go by fairly rapidly. Even still, most individuals have a pretty solid idea of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re trained to do effectively from a very young age.

The more challenging part is keeping track of your volume. Volume isn’t gauged in decibels on the majority of smart devices such as TVs, computers, and smartphones. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. It might be 1-100. Or it might be 1-10. You may not have any idea how close to max volume you are or even what max volume on your device is.

How can you listen to tunes while monitoring your volume?

It’s not really easy to tell how loud 80 decibels is, but fortunately 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 perplexing.

That’s why it’s greatly recommended you utilize one of numerous free noise monitoring apps. These apps, generally available for both iPhone and Android devices, will give you 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. Your smartphone will, with the proper settings, inform you 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. That’s not too loud. Your ears will start to take damage at volumes above this threshold so it’s a significant observation.

So you’ll want to be more mindful of those times when you’re going beyond that decibel threshold. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music over 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 have hearing issues over the long term. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the result. The more you can be aware of when your ears are entering the danger zone, the more educated your decision-making can be. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.

Still have questions about safe listening? Contact us to go over more options.

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.